The Federal Bureau of Investigation warned attendees at the Alaska Native Village Corporation Association Annual Meeting about a potential increase in fraud attempts that may occur in connection with the U.S. chairmanship of the Arctic Council.
The warning came during an April 29 presentation by Jessica Hais, Special Agent with the FBI’s Anchorage Division. Hais said the fraud can appear in a variety of forms involving the theft of products, information or money.
With international trade sanctions currently in effect, Hais said, Russian entities are trying to circumvent the ban on technology sales and transfers. U.S. businesses should beware of attempts to steal domestic technology.
Hais described some of the practices to watch for in order for companies to protect themselves:
- Unsolicited email messages proposing business deals and information sharing.
- Offers to fund projects or invest in companies.
- Detailed requests for information about company operations.
- Email messages from who appears to be the “company CEO” to corporation administrators requesting a financial transaction to be executed.
Hais counseled corporate executives to exercise caution during foreign travel, when dentity theft attempts are common.
Hais warned foreign intelligence services will often pose as financial investors when approaching companies. Using a cover, they’ll make a small investment upfront in order to gain access to company data. Scams involving this method have been traced to China.
Another scam is for someone among a visiting foreign delegation or group of researchers to ask to borrow a computer to check their email messages, and then surreptitiously use a thumb drive to copy the computer contents.
Hais said the FBI has seen all of these types of fraud before, but they have become more sophisticated.
Hais said that with the Arctic Council chairmanship, the U.S. and Alaska can expect an increase in fraud attempts. Canadian authorities reported they experienced increased contacts from supposed foreign investors during its chairmanship period.
As part of its larger strategic goals, China, for example, has been trying to court the Arctic Council’s Permanent Participants, and actively seeking information to support this effort.
Hais said the interactions with foreign investors, researchers, and delegations could be benign, but it’s wise to gather all of the facts before sharing information. She added the FBI is not trying to discourage foreign investment, and her presentation shouldn’t be interpreted as such.
People who have suspicious events or suspected fraud cases to report can contact Hais directly at (907) 276-4441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.