Mark Medley knows about identity theft because he’s been a victim, and he runs a nonprofit in Albuquerque to help other victims.
No one is immune, though, from callers who seek to scare you by warning you there are warrants out for your arrest.
Medley, who is the caretaker for his mother, answered an early morning phone call recently in which a supposed Bernalillo County sheriff’s deputy claimed his mother had failed to appear for jury duty and that two arrest warrants had been issued.
The caller told Medley to rush to Walgreens and get nearly $2,000 on a money card in order to clear his mother’s name.
Medley, who runs ID Theft Resolutions, knew what was up, but he explained to the caller anyway, “My mom is handicapped, and she wouldn’t be able to serve on a jury, even if she wanted to.”
The caller, who provided what he said was his badge number, obviously didn’t care and hung up.
The next caller claimed to be “Amber” from “Court Services” who said Medley needed to bring to the courthouse identification and documentation proving he was his mother’s caregiver. He also was to provide his mother’s driver’s license and a utility bill showing her address. And he had to do it, she said, within the next few hours.
Such efforts to rip people off are not uncommon, and the state Attorney General’s Office saw an uptick in reports about imposter scams during the pandemic, spokeswoman Jerri Mares said.
“Our office sees this scam frequently and in many varieties,” Mares said. “Scammers use this as a blueprint or script, and change what’s needed until it works. Jury duty, avoidance of civil duty, kidnapping and IRS scams; they are all familiar and not unusual. Scammers attempt to catch people off guard and use a person’s emotions to their advantage.”
Sometimes people will answer phone calls that come from a place they’ve never heard of because they’re simply curious about who is calling, Mares added.
If a supposed government agency calls to ask for personal information or provide you notice about something, consider that a “huge red flag,” she said. Another dead giveaway is if you’re asked to make a payment by cash or gift card.
“Scammers like these cards because they have limited protections,” Mares said.
TEMPTING PURCHASES: Here’s a phishing scheme that’s making the rounds: an email shows up claiming your bank account, credit card or Amazon account will be charged for the new iPhone you just purchased.
Kind of weird, because you didn’t buy an iPhone.
In that case, you might be tempted to call the phone number provided where it says “Didn’t make this purchase? Contact us at …” Or it might say, “If you feel you are receiving this message in error, contact us immediately.”
One person reported to the Better Business Bureau that he was told to download an app as part of the refund process. In other cases, the fake “customer service rep” told victims he needed credit card information to cancel the sale.
Always double-check the sender’s email address and review your bank or credit card accounts if someone falsely claims you made a purchase.
Contact Ellen Marks at email@example.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, prompt 5. Complaints can be filed electronically at nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.