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State AG reports rash of complaints naming contractors

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Landscaping and construction con artists have been plying their trade in New Mexico recently.

State Attorney General Hector Balderas is warning of contractors who promise to do work and take people’s money for doing so, but then never complete the job.

One landscaper, for example, is the target of four recent complaints with the AG’s Office from people who say the company collected a total of more than $10,000 before its owner disappeared, leaving behind nothing more than a disconnected phone number. The owner appeared to target homeowners in new housing developments, according to the AG.

In another recent case, a 70-year-old Moriarty woman paid a $4,000 deposit to an unlicensed contractor based on his estimate of a $9,000 roofing job. She also paid for tarps and metal sheeting, among other items. The contractor damaged her property and took off with the deposit before the work was done.

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The AG’s Office said it is working with the woman to take action.

The first lesson to be learned from these kinds of scams seems obvious: Don’t pay up front for work that hasn’t been done yet.

“You should never pay someone to do work on your home unless and until the work is complete,” Balderas said. “Simply waiting until work is complete before paying would solve most of the home improvement complaints our office receives.”

The AG adds that some consumers might feel comfortable putting down a deposit in some circumstances, but if you go that route, don’t pay until the work has at least been started. And make the payment by credit card rather than cash or check so at least you have a chance of a refund.

In any case, do some homework and make sure the contractor is licensed by verifying with the state’s Construction Industries Division at public.psiexams.com/search.jsp or by phone at 877-663-9267. (The full name must be entered accurately.) If there is no listing, that means, in most cases, there is no license.

Also, check with the Better Business Bureau for any complaints against the person soliciting work from you.

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While it might be nice to tell your Facebook friends and family what you’re up to, where you’re going, what time and with whom, consider carefully before doing so.

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The Identity Theft Resource Center is warning about a social media-related scam that could threaten your bank account by tapping into information shared online.

The center points to a recent incident in which a member of the military stationed in California took a phone call from a scammer who claimed to be a representative of his bank. The caller said there had been fraudulent activity on the soldier’s account, but said the bank had set up a new one. It just needed his authorization to transfer funds into the new account. The soldier, grateful his bank appeared to be so on top of things, complied.

Of course, there had been no fraudulent activity on his account – until the fraudulent bank employee contacted him and fraudulently drained his entire savings.

Why would someone fall for this? The center said it was because the scammer had detailed information about the soldier’s whereabouts and activities during the previous weeks, especially a trip to Hawaii, that likely was gleaned from Facebook posts. That information made the scammer appear credible.

Here are some guidelines from the ID Theft Resource Center:

• While the whole point of social media is to share information about yourself, stop and think before you do so. It’s possible to boast about accomplishments or travel (but only after you’ve returned home so you don’t alert potential burglars) without providing too many details about yourself or relatives.

• Set privacy controls. Make sure you know who can see what you’ve posted and how to control it.

• One easy way for scammers to see your social media posts is to send you a friend request. They can initiate a new contact and look to be someone you might like to connect with, or they can “spoof” an existing account that you’re already connected to. If you suddenly get a request from someone you should already be connected with, check with the person before accepting the request to make sure it’s legit.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842.

 


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