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Fake ‘federal inspectors’ are making the rounds

If you get an email from your rabbi or pastor, chances are you won’t think twice about whether it’s legitimate.

But you should.

Scammers are sending out emails to members of religious congregations, asking for “a favor.” They appear to come from that congregation’s spiritual leader and say, “email me as soon as you get this message.” Once you reply, you get another email asking that you buy eBay gift cards to help a friend who’s hospitalized with cancer. The friend, according to the email, needs the cards to download music and videos “to boost his confidence on his next phase of surgery.”

The clergy member promises to pay you back for the cards, requested in denominations of up to $1,000. Of course, this will never happen because you are corresponding with an imposter. The best protection is to contact the clergy member or the congregation office directly to see if the request is kosher.

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Warning to New Mexico businesses from the state attorney general: Beware of fake federal inspectors who are visiting restaurants and collecting $100 fines for alleged violations. The AG’s Office is hearing about scammers visiting New Mexico restaurants and impersonating Occupational Safety and Health Administration inspectors.

“Only after paying the ‘fine’ do restaurants discover that the so-called inspector is a fraud,” a news release said.

Authorized inspectors always show credentials when visiting a restaurant or other business, and any concerns or fines will be “presented through official means, such as in writing,” the AG’s Office says. Report incidents like this at www.nmag.gov or call 844-255-9210.

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The latest scam coronavirus “cures” or “treatments” involve electric current device zappers, nasal spray and intravenous vitamin and ozone therapies.

The FTC has filed lawsuits against marketers hawking these products or services, saying they are not supported by scientific evidence. Talk with a health care professional before trying any supposed COVID-19 products. Information on the virus and treatments in development can be found at www.fda.gov/patients.

Other schemes hitting New Mexicans:

• Watch out for emails claiming to be from the “Clerk of Court,” saying you must complete a questionnaire because you have been chosen to serve as a potential juror for two months, according to the U.S. District Court in New Mexico. The emails come from jurors@clerkofcourt.org, which is not associated with the courts. It also contains a link that is not legitimate and could be dangerous if followed. The court says it does not send out jury summons via email.

• Reminder about a fake letter from law enforcement seeking pledged donations and child ID information, such as fingerprints, a hair sample and current photo. The letter makes reference to the “National Police and Troopers Association, also known as the International Union of Police Associations.”

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Congress has not yet approved a second coronavirus stimulus package, creating an uncertainty that provides a perfect breeding ground for fraudsters, the FTC says. Consumers should use caution when looking for work-at-home job opportunities. For example, online ads might tout internet businesses, shipping or mailing work or selling positions.

A tip-off that it’s not a legitimate “help wanted” ad is when it requires you to pay something upfront. The ad might say, for example, that you have to pay a fee for certification or supplies. Research potential employers online, and use legitimate, well-respected sites.

Also during this time, be wary of mortgage help offers that want you to pay before you get any help in return. IT’s illegal for companies to charge you before they help you with your mortgage, the FTC says. If you are behind on your mortgage, contact your mortgage server to see what options you might have.

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com. 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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