Phone scammers’ late-night calls meet stiff resistence

Sometimes, you just have to laugh.

That’s what Mike Kruchoski did, even after he got repeated and extremely annoying phone calls in the middle of the night from someone named Julie.

The recorded Julie wanted Kruchoski, a retired technical consultant in Albuquerque, to know that she had a $100 “rebate voucher” for him in appreciation for his having logged onto “one of our affiliate websites.” She wanted him to press “1” to call the rewards department and activate the voucher, or “2” to be placed on the “Do Not Call” list.

Mike hung up, but then was the recipient of 12 more calls in a stretch that lasted between 11:48 p.m. and 12:41 a.m., all of them appearing to come from different local numbers but all featuring Julie.

During the barrage, he answered one of the calls so he could press 1 and see what would happen if he tried to claim his reward. As you might guess, there was no reward.

But there was this: a live human who asked him for an ID number and then wanted to know: “Have you had this erection for more than four hours?”

Now, really.

While Kruchoski has a sense of humor, he also said the calls (they have continued, although he hasn’t answered them) are disruptive because “family medical issues” require him to keep his phone nearby.

“It’s funny and irritating at the same time,” Kruchoski said.

Vacation reminder: If you’re going out of town, even for a few days, make sure your mail doesn’t pile up while you’re gone.

An enterprising thief can stitch together enough information from bills and credit card offers to copy someone’s identity and steal it.

The best prevention is to have a neighbor collect your mail or put a hold on it with the U.S. Postal Service. This can be done online at https://holdmail.usps.com/holdmail/ or by calling your local post office.

Facebook Messenger scams are popping up again.

An Albuquerque man recently got a message from a supposed friend saying, “Have you heard the good news yet?” The good news had to do with a payout from “the international monetary fund.”

One tip-off that it was a scam was that the message was filled with grammatical errors – unusual for the friend, who was a longtime educator, the man said.

The man followed up by contacting the friend and warning her that someone was using her identity to troll for money.

Be aware that Facebook identities can be stolen, so a friend telling you about some too-good-to-be-true deal is probably not a friend.

The National Consumers League reports that it has received complaints about similar scams in which a supposed friend uses social media to spread the word about a federal grant or prize for which others might also qualify.

Inevitably, the scammer breaks the news that there is a filing fee or taxes that must be paid first. In some cases, the “friend” will offer to help make the payment if the victim can’t afford to do so.

“As data breaches continue to give scammers access to account and login credentials, experts predict that this kind of account hijacking is likely to increase and result in more money being stolen from consumers’ pockets as a consequence,” the consumer league said.

Advice: If you get a message from a friend that talks about a deal, contact the friend independently to get more information. And whatever the deal, don’t let curiosity get the better of you. If a message contains a link, do not click.

You can reduce the risk of your account getting hacked by making sure to use complex passwords and never reusing the same one at a later time.

You can also set up two-factor authentication, in which you’ll be asked to enter a special security code or confirm your login attempt each time someone tries accessing Facebook from a computer or mobile device that’s not recognized.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210​.

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