Wasilla resident lost PFD after hackers redirected banking information

It’s unclear whether the state will reissue the $3,284 payout
It’s unclear whether the state will reissue the $3,284 payout
Published: Oct. 7, 2022 at 7:04 PM AKDT
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WASILLA, Alaska (KTUU) - Many Alaskans were relieved when Governor Mike Dunleavy announced this year’s larger-than-usual Permanent Fund Dividend at the Three Bears store in Palmer. With inflation on the rise and gas prices soaring once again, the yearly fall payout helps residents offset costs.

But for one Wasilla resident, that relief turned to disappointment after hackers got into her MyAlaska account and changed her banking information.

Like many residents, Diane Bryant applied for her PFD in early January through the myAlaska web portal, receiving the standard confirmation email that comes after submission. Not long after, hackers were able to gain access through her email account.

“Going through my email, somehow they were able to change the password on myAlaska site,” Bryant said.

From there, the hackers changed the direct deposit banking information. Bryant — through her own investigation — discovered it was deposited in an account with Evolve Bank & Trust, an institution headquartered in Tennessee.

“I called a really nice gal down there, filed a fraud report,” Bryant recalled. “Her name was Christina, and Christina said ‘Well Diane, I’d look at this but I can’t. It came into our bank, but it went out to another bank.’”

According to Evolve Bank & Trust, the funds ended up going to an account held by Wise, a financial technology company that offers international money transfers. Soon after learning this information, an investigation was opened with the State of Alaska Department of Revenue’s Criminal Investigations Unit.

What state investigators told Bryant was disheartening.

“He told me that probably, that my money went to Nigeria,” Bryant said.

When Bryant asked if the state would reissue her check, the response was that it was not likely.

“The reason being, is because state statute doesn’t allow a second issue regardless of a situation,” Bryant said.

“As far as the state’s concerned, they issued the PFD, they’re no longer responsible.”

PFD Director for the state PFD Division, Genevieve Wojtusik, issued Alaska’s News Source the following statement:

“PFD is aware of the situation. Our Criminal Investigation Unit is aware of this incident and are actively investigating. We will provide further information if appropriate. The PFD Division takes the security of dividend funds and Alaskans’ personal information extremely seriously.”

Bryant still wants to know how someone got ahold of her money. The state Department of Administration’s External Public Information Officer, Ken Truitt, responded:

“This is not a situation where there was a myAlaska system breach, but a situation where a few individual accounts were compromised.”

Unfortunately for Bryant, it’s still unclear whether or not she will receive this year’s PFD check.