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Fake utility collectors, no free pizza or braces

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — New Mexico Gas Co. is warning about a fake bill collector who went to a Rio Rancho customer’s home recently to demand immediate payment.

The bogus employee, wearing a white shirt with a Gas Co. logo, threatened to shut off the customer’s service if no payment was made. The customer did give the imposter a check but realized it was a scam and had the check blocked.

While scammers have telephoned customers to make threats, “this is the first episode in recent memory where someone apparently impersonated an … employee, walked up to a customer’s door and asked for money,” company president Ryan Shell said in a written statement.

The company reminds customers that they can confirm an employee’s identity by asking for ID or by checking with the company at 1-888-664-2726.

Remember the old adage “There’s no such thing as a free lunch?”

Turns out the same holds true for pizza.

Little Caesars this month warned that a Facebook posting offering free pizza for life was fake. Clearly, this falls into the category of “if it’s too good to be true, then it’s too good to be true.”

The same company in February had to put out a warning about fake coupons offering three large pizzas in honor of the chain’s 60th birthday. Clicking through to these kinds of offers can unleash malware into your computer.

And it’s not just pizza that’s used as bait. There have been bogus offers involving Kohl’s as well as Dunkin’, formerly known as Dunkin’ Donuts. These online offers are tricky because scammers can make a coupon look official with brand logos and colors.

Sometimes they’ll ask you to buy an item before you get the coupon. Or they might try to solicit personal information by asking you to take a survey that asks for credit card numbers.

Here are some tips about counterfeit coupons, courtesy of the Better Business Bureau:

• Realize that often, the better a deal looks, the more likely it is to be fake. If you’re uncertain, go to the company’s website to look for the coupon, or contact the company. Find the contact information on your own; don’t trust details given on the coupon.

• Look for an expiration date. Most coupons have one, so if you’re seeing a coupon that doesn’t, that’s a red flag. Legitimate coupons for freebies rather than discounts usually expire more quickly.

• Verify the source. If a coupon comes to you in an email, hover the mouse over the link (without clicking) and the URL destination address should appear. If it looks like a random assortment of numbers and letters, don’t click on it.

• Check out the Coupon Information Corp. (couponinformationcenter.com) and click on “counterfeit notifications.” It has a list of suspicious fake coupons.

If you’re one of the multitudes who has got those persistent calls about Medicare orthopedic braces, there is good news.

Federal agents have busted two dozen people who are accused of bilking Medicare for $1 billion by pushing unneeded back, shoulder, wrist and knee braces to hundreds of thousands of seniors.

Among those charged were doctors accused of writing bogus prescriptions. Also involved were 130 medical equipment companies, according to Medicare’s anti-fraud unit.

Profits were laundered through offshore shell companies and used to buy high-end cars, yachts and luxury homes, federal officials said.

Contact Ellen Marks 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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