Alaskans’ losses to online fraud have almost doubled, FBI says

A person holds an iphone
(Photo by Renee Gross/KBBI)

Alaskans lost nearly double the amount of money to internet scams last year compared to 2022, according to crime reports to federal authorities. The increase outpaces the national jump in money lost to cybercrime as a rising tide of online fraud affects the Last Frontier.

Those findings are included in the FBI’s annual Internet Crime Report released this week. According to the report, overall U.S. losses reported last year to the bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center rose by about 21 percent, from $10.3 billion in 2022 to $12.5 billion in 2023

In Alaska, however, losses over the same time period leapt by about 91 percent, from about $16.5 million to $31.5 million.

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Supervisory Special Agent Andy Smith, who leads the Anchorage FBI office’s white-collar crime squad, said Thursday that even the spike shown by the new report doesn’t fully depict the extent of scammers’ take from Alaskans.

“We actually believe that the numbers are underreported,” Smith said. “We think that there are individuals who don’t report these things.”

Smith said that the three main types of online fraud reported in Alaska involve compromised business emails, investment fraud and so-called romance scams – in which scammers convince victims they’re in a relationship, then ask for money.

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The report shows that Alaska had one of the nation’s highest per-capita loss rates to online fraud last year, ranking sixth. Alaska also had the second highest rate of fraud reports, behind only Washington, D.C.

According to the FBI’s Alaska data, about an eighth – nearly 300 – of the state’s 2,338 online-fraud victims last year were over the age of 60. But they accounted for over $8.7 million in losses, more than a quarter of Alaskans’ total.

Smith said the FBI extensively investigates complaints and has agents working around the globe. He said many suspects are outside the U.S. – which makes being aware of potential scams before they happen crucial.

“Prevention is so important when it comes to these types of crimes,” Smith said.

Smith emphasized the importance of common online-safety steps like using strong passwords and reputable anti-virus software on computers and smartphones, as well exercising caution when using public wi-fi networks or hardware charging ports. People should also avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails and text messages, and manually verify any company email addresses or contact numbers provided in them.

Not falling for romance scams, however, takes its own kind of caution.

“Be very careful with any sort of relationship that is a virtual-only relationship,” Smith said. “We see a lot of victims falling prey to fraudsters, especially on social media, who are looking to develop a relationship – sometimes that can be friendly, sometimes it can be romantic. But eventually these individuals will start asking for funds or gifts or gift cards or cryptocurrency.”

According to Smith, Alaskans should report online fraud to the FBI on the complaint center’s website. He also encouraged people to report corporate data breaches involving their information to the FBI, due to their chronic underreporting.

“Anytime that your information has been compromised, I think you should go to (the FBI’s website) and report it,” Smith said.

The FBI has also created a list of resources for preventing online fraud, and a set of questions that can help highlight whether you or a loved one have been victimized.

Correction: An earlier version of this story misstated the percentage increase of Alaskans’ online fraud losses from 2022 to 2023.

Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at Read more about Chris here.

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