It’s spring, and solar sales scams are in the air - Albuquerque Journal

It’s spring, and solar sales scams are in the air

It appears that springtime scammers are starting to ply their trade in the Albuquerque area.

And that means solar installers are hitting the streets, falsely claiming that they’re connected to Public Service Co. of New Mexico. They are asking to see people’s electric bills and trying to sell them solar panels or other equipment.

“It is our understanding that these are likely solar sales lead generators that are obtaining customer information and selling it to solar contractors,” PNM spokeswoman Shannon Jackson said.

The utility does not sell anything related to solar, and does not do any kind of door-to-door sales, Jackson says.

Instead, it works “with a lot of reputable solar companies that customers select on their own in order to interconnect their new solar system to the grid,” she says.

Those who are targeted with this kind of scam should report it to the state Attorney General’s Office at www.nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.

Also report it to PNM at www.pnm.com/scam-calls.

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In the ever-evolving world of coronavirus scams, the latest seems to be fake vaccine surveys.

People across the country have reported getting emails and texts “out of the blue,” asking them to complete a survey regarding the Pfizer, Moderna or AstraZeneca vaccine, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

In exchange, those targeted are promised a free reward — as long as they pay shipping fees. The messages come with the logo of the particular drug company in an attempt to appear legitimate.

One person, on an FTC website, said she was tempted to go along with the offer because it came with reviews supposedly from others about how great the gifts were.

Remember that no legitimate surveys will ask for your credit card or bank account information to pay a “free” reward, the FTC says.

Don’t click on any attachments or links, and don’t call or use the phone number in the email or text.

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Last year, New Mexico residents lost nearly $24 million to internet scams, compared to nearly $18 million in 2019, according to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.

The biggest share of losses — almost $10 million — was due to business email compromises involving illegitimate fund transfers.

Recurring examples are hacked or spoofed email accounts in which a top company official appears to be asking employees to send a wire payment or to provide personal W-2 information, according to the FBI.

The next most costly scams were confidence fraud and romance scams, in which a scammer preys on the victim’s “heartstrings,” the FBI says. That category racked up losses of $5 million — more than triple those incurred in 2019.

That includes the grandparent scam, in which a fraudster calls pretending to be a grandchild who is in desperate need of money.

The point is to trick the target into sending money, personal or financial information or valuable items.

A big hit among scammers, of course, was fraud connected to the coronavirus pandemic, the FBI says.

The FBI center received more than 28,000 reports of these types of scams.

“While many New Mexicans struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic, cyber criminals didn’t miss a beat,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Scott A. Rago of the Albuquerque FBI Division. “The increased number of people teleworking or going online to stay in touch provided more opportunities for computer scams.”

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 1-888-255-9210 or file a complaint at www.nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.

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