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Toys R Us closing is an opening for internet frauds

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — One thing about scammers: they waste no time when there’s a new opportunity to ply their trade.Ellen Marks

The same day that Toys R Us announced it was closing 182 stores last week, at least one bogus website went up, seeking to attract shoppers looking for clearance offers, according to Scam Detector.

The fake site – www.toyzrus.com – was almost identical to the real Toys R Us website, which is www.toysrus.com. It appears the replica has since been taken down, but the cautionary note remains the same: be on the lookout for these imposter deals.

The website with the “z” had significantly fewer pages and products for sale, according to Scam Detector, and the prices were “ridiculously low,” showing a 90 percent discount on items ranging from a children’s tablet to a table and chairs set. If you add any of the items to your cart and then provide your credit card number… well, you know the rest.

Another similarly misspelled site playing off of the Toys R Us name brought up a popup notification, encouraging the person to install a software program. Don’t do this either.

Be aware, also, of bogus ads on social media with headlines such as “182 stores closing down – Toys R Us needs to get rid of everything NOW,” Scam Detector advises.

Play it safe by looking for bargains only on the official company website (see above).

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Mark Medley, a local identity theft victim who started a nonprofit to help others, raises an issue involving the special driver’s license designation available to those who have had their identities stolen.

The designation shows law-enforcement officers that you are a victim of identity theft in case a background check on you pulls up crimes that were committed in your name. It’s part of the state’s “Identity Theft Passport” program, says Medley, who successfully pushed for its creation in the Legislature in 2009.

Medley, who heads ID Theft Resolutions in the Albuquerque area, says when he went to get his license renewed recently at an MVD Express outlet, the clerk told him he would have to go to a Department of Motor Vehicles state office if he wanted to retain the special designation. Medley was not pleased.

It turns out the clerk should have granted Medley’s request. Michelle Laskowski, a spokeswoman for MVD Express, says the offices are, in fact, authorized to attach the designation to license renewals. But there’s a caveat: someone who also wants to change the name that’s listed on their license must go to a state office, she said.

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A new reminder about an old scam.

It’s the mortgage relief scheme that preys on people who are behind on payments or even facing foreclosure. The federal government, with assistance from New Mexico’s attorney general, has won a temporary halt against several companies that are accused of falsely promising to make mortgages more affordable. Several New Mexicans were among those targeted, the AG’s Office said.

The companies, using letters displaying “doctored government logos,” promised to cut homeowners’ interest payments in half and to reduce monthly mortgage payments by hundreds of dollars, according to the Federal Trade Commission. For their services, the companies typically charged $3,900 in advance fees and claimed a 98 to 100 percent success rate.

Reminders:

• Don’t pay an up-front fee for these services. “Unless they’re attorneys following specific rules, it’s illegal for companies to charge you until they’ve negotiated a loan modification and you’ve accepted it,” the FTC advises.

• If a company claims attorneys will help you, get their names and make sure they’re licensed to practice in New Mexico.

• If you need help in this area, contact www.keepyourhomenewmexico.org or call 1-800-220-0350.

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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