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Years-ago purse theft ruins Bahamas holiday

It was traumatic fallout from the simple theft of a purse.

Jordan Stansbury, a 25-year-old nurse, was headed for a “romantic trip” to the Bahamas with her boyfriend last year when police at the Atlanta airport stopped her, checked her passport and promptly placed her in handcuffs.

Stansbury said she was hauled off to the county jail, where she was booked and held for 24 hours without being given a reason. Police, acting on a warrant out of Albuquerque, told her, “We’re not at liberty to say.”

Stansbury was able to reach a family member, and a lawyer was able to arrange her release – just in time to save her from spending a weekend behind bars.

It turns out that Stansbury, who now lives in Portland, was the victim of a terrible case of identity theft that came back to haunt her after her purse was stolen out of her car in Albuquerque in 2014.

It happened in a flash – Stansbury said she was dropping off a friend and ran into his apartment “just for a minute” when the crime occurred. Two years later, a woman using Stansbury’s ID showed up at an Albuquerque pawn shop, trying to pawn some stolen generators, according to an Albuquerque Police Department report.

“I was a nurse at UNM,” Stansbury said in a phone interview. “I don’t even know what a generator does.”

The warrant for Stansbury’s arrest was the reason her Bahamas trip was interrupted, as police sought to solve the stolen generator case.

“It was traumatic,” she said.

And it made the news in Atlanta, with headlines about U.S. Customs and Border Protection arresting her and three others in unrelated cases who were trying to leave the country. The agency described Stansbury as a fugitive.

“Now, if you Google my name, that’s how it shows up,” she said. “Now, employers are going to know.”

Stansbury said it took $10,000 and a full six months to get her name cleared and the charges dismissed.

“I’m young and I like to travel,” she said. “Traveling now is a total anxiety-inducing situation.”

She says she monitors her credit card accounts “constantly” and is vigilant about protecting her identity.

Stansbury called a couple of weeks ago to talk about her experience because she doesn’t want it to happen to others.

“I know that people get their cars broken into all the time in Albuquerque,” she said. “I just want people to be aware and alert, to be cognizant that these things can happen.”

“I never would have guessed that this would happen to me.”

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A New Mexico woman last week fell for a scam that came via a messenger app, prompting a warning from the state Attorney General’s Office.

The scammer, posing as a “friend,” sent the woman a message about a supposedly new Health and Human Services program that would send her $50,000 in exchange for a payment of $500 for taxes, according to the alert.

“Unfortunately, the other end of the message chain is being answered by an imposter who has hacked the actual friend’s messenger service – not the friend at all,” the AG’s Office said.

The woman tried to verify whether the offer was legitimate by questioning the supposed friend, and received assurances – from the scammer – that is was a true deal. That prompted the woman to follow through by purchasing gift cards to cover the $500.

“Finally, she realized she was being scammed but it was too late, as she had already provided the identification numbers of the gifts cards to the scammers,” the AG’s alert said.

Here’s the advice on this one: “Never pay anyone who demands payment via gift card because the use of non-standard banking devices is a sure sign you are dealing with a scammer,” AG Hector Balderas said. “Secondly, never disclose your personal information to someone who initiated the contact electronically with you.”

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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