UAF campus

The setting sun illuminates buildings on the University of Alaska Fairbanks campus. File photo

The recorded voice of the woman on the phone said she was from the Chinese consulate and that the person receiving the call should press 1 to recover a personal file from the consulate.

But not many people understood the robocall despite reports of it being widely received Wednesday in Alaska. The calls were in Mandarin Chinese, a language fewer than 2,000 people in Alaska speak, according to census numbers.

The message of the recording sounds nearly identical to a phone scam reported widely in the Lower 48 last year, especially in areas with large Chinese-speaking populations. The scam follows the same basic script as many English robocall scams. A March news release from the FBI states that between December 2017 and February 2019, more than 350 victims lost a total of more than $40 million to the scheme, which is often known as the “Chinese embassy scam.” 

In Fairbanks, the call came to organizations and businesses Wednesday, including City Hall, the emergency dispatch center, the University of Alaska Fairbanks, Fred Meyer and the Daily News-Miner. People in Anchorage and Juneau also reported receiving the Chinese robocall. At the News-Miner, the robocall cycled through every phone in the newsroom sequentially around noon.

Contact Outdoors Editor Sam Friedman at 459-7545. Follow him on Twitter: @FDNMoutdoors