Pre-paid Cash Card Scam Affecting Survivor Benefits
The Division of Retirement and Benefits has received information from several survivors eligible to receive death benefits from the Public Employees' (PERS) or Teachers' (TRS) Retirement Systems of a scam aimed at obtaining identity information about the deceased spouse and thousands of dollars in the form of pre-paid cash cards.
The scam works like this
The scammer contacts the survivor and asserts that the survivor or deceased spouse owes money on an insurance policy and the State of Alaska will either withhold part or all of the death benefits until the amount is paid. The survivor is then instructed to provide the deceased's Social Security number and to mail prepaid cash cards along with the receipt for the cash cards and his/her signature on the back to a specified address. In one case, an individual purporting to be representing the State of Alaska verified the pension benefits would be withheld if the instructions were not complied with.
Two important facts
- State of Alaska retirement system death benefits will NEVER be withheld for debt payment.
- The Division will NEVER contact you by phone and demand cash cards for any attachments.
What to do if you are contacted
- If you receive a phone call from someone claiming to be from the Division, but you suspect they are not, then:
- Record the caller's name, call back number, and caller ID if available.
- Call (800) 821-2251 and confirm the caller is a Division employee.
- If the caller is not a Division employee, contact your local police department and report the scam.
What to do if you have provided identity information
- Using certified mail with "return receipt," send copies of the death certificate to each credit-reporting bureau—Equifax, Experian and TransUnion—asking them to place a "deceased alert" on the credit report. Mail certificates to banks, insurers, brokerages and credit card and mortgage companies where the deceased held accounts. If you are closing an individual account, make sure the institution lists "Closed: Account Holder Is Deceased" as the reason. For joint accounts, remove the deceased's name.
- Report the death to Social Security by calling (800) 772-1213.
- Contact the Department of Motor Vehicles to cancel the deceased's driver's license, to prevent duplicates from being issued to fraudsters.
- A few weeks later, check the credit report of the person at annualcreditreport.com to see if there has been any suspicious activity. Several months later, go to the same site to get another free report from a different credit-reporting bureau.
- For more tips, visit the Identity Theft Resource Center and type "deceased" in the search box.