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Phone hack disrupts family health services

Hacking seems to be the theme this week, with a couple of local organizations becoming the unfortunate targets.

CHI St. Joseph’s Children, which provides free services for pregnant women and families with young children, was identified as “Department of Homeland Security-ICE” on Caller IDs this month.

The hack affected 50 land-lines the organization uses from its Albuquerque office to contact families that have been referred for services, said president Allen Sánchez.

Because CHI St. Joseph’s “supports immigrant children and their families regardless of status,” an unknown number of people likely did not answer their phones when Homeland Security flashed on their caller IDs, Sánchez said.

Staffers clued into the problem when they noticed a drop in people registering for the home-visiting program, he said.

The nonprofit is owned by the national Catholic Health Initiatives, but only the New Mexico phone lines were affected by the hack, Sánchez said. The FBI is investigating and the problem is now fixed, Sánchez said, but the nonprofit is concerned about families waiting for its help with home visits, medical needs, food and other kinds of help.

It is trying again to reach families now that the phones are fixed, but it wants you to know this: “If you were expecting a phone call from CHI St. Joseph’s Children, you can reach them at 505-924-8000.”

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The other hack happened to Leadership New Mexico, which is warning that its email account – leader@leadershipnm.org – was compromised.

Bogus emails have been sent out regarding a fake invoice, warns the group, which provides programs to train future leaders in the state.

The bad emails start out with “Dear Client” and say, “I have attached our invoice which requires payment prior to starting work.” It then provides a link so the recipient can view the supposed invoice.

Don’t click.

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The Better Business Bureau is warning about a change-of-address scam in which fake companies have created websites mimicking the U.S. Postal Service.

Consumers have ended up on these sites after doing an online search for how to change an address. The process, really, is easy with a minimal charge and can be done online at the official Postal Service site at www.usps.com.

The fake sites are deceptively similar to the real one, the BBB says, but those who make a payment with their credit or debit card will find themselves with extra charges they didn’t agree to.

“In most cases, these fake companies get away with your money and your address is left unchanged,” the BBB said.

Here’s how to avoid being duped by an imitation website, according to the BBB:

• Double check the URL before you enter any personal or payment information. “It can be easy to click on a sponsored ad or imposter website without noticing.” Make sure the link is secure – if it is, it will start with “https://” and will include a lock icon on the purchase page.

• Be cautious about third-party websites, no matter how much they look like the real thing. Those that have no working customer service number and no physical address should sound an alarm. Also, typos and grammatical errors are a very bad sign.

• Make online purchases with a credit card. Fraudulent charges on a credit card can usually be disputed, which is not always the case with other payment methods.

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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