Disaster lights a fire under NM con artists - Albuquerque Journal

Disaster lights a fire under NM con artists

Scammers have descended on New Mexico residents, trying to use the state’s devastating wildfires to make a buck.

Those affected by the Calf Canyon/Hermits Peak fires should be wary of callers claiming to be from the Federal Emergency Management Agency, says a consumer advisory from state Attorney General Hector Balderas.

Some thieves are trying to apply for disaster relief using names, addresses and stolen Social Security numbers.

The agency will not call seeking payment for services to disaster victims. In fact, FEMA will not make unsolicited contact to survivors unless they have first contacted the agency or applied for relief.

“Many New Mexico families are dealing with the trauma of evacuation and some have lost everything to the wildfires,” Balderas said in his recent consumer advisory. “It is unimaginable to me that scammers are trying to take advantage of our citizens at such a horrific time.”

If you have any doubts about whether a FEMA representative is legitimate, call the FEMA Helpline at (800) 621-3362. To report a scam, call FEMA’s fraud hotline at (866) 720-5721 and file a report with the state attorney general at secure.nmag.gov/ecs.

FTC’s authority to provide refunds ‘severely hobbled’

When consumers are conned by telemarketing fraud or pyramid schemes, they deserve to get their stolen money back. Same with victims of data security or privacy scams, says a congressional report issued this month.

But, too often, that’s not happening because a U.S. Supreme Court ruling last year “severely hobbled” the Federal Trade Commission’s authority to provide refunds to victimized consumers and businesses, the report says. The FTC had used that authority to refund $11.2 billion to consumers in the five years before the ruling.

A fix to restore the agency’s power to provide monetary relief is underway with the proposed Consumer Protection Remedies Act of 2022.

“One of the FTC’s primary responsibilities is defending consumers from predatory scams and fraud,” New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján said in a written statement. “It is high time that Congress reinstate the FTC’s authority to return billions of dollars to victims of unfair and deceptive practices.”

Luján, chair of the Commerce Committee’s subcommittee on Communications, Media and Broadband, is among the sponsors of the legislation and is hopeful it will reach the floor soon, a Luján staff member said.

The high court, in its opinion, said it was not ruling on whether the FTC powers were desirable, but whether they were authorized by federal law.

The upshot, the Senate report said, was the ruling created “uncertainty for consumers and small businesses who depend on the FTC for relief after being subject to a scam or fraud, or an unfair, deceptive or anticompetitive business practice.”

The report said the FTC’s enforcement powers “had been especially critical in cases involving technology and pharmaceutical companies, including Amazon, Uber (and AT&T.)”

A state breakdown shows the FTC has mailed $12.2 million worth of refunds to nearly 75,000 people in New Mexico, using those powers.

Among the top refunds were $3.5 million from AMG Services for a payday lending scheme and nearly $3 million for the Herbalife multilevel marketing case, according to the Senate report.

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3805 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.

Home » Opinion » Guest Columns » Disaster lights a fire under NM con artists


Albuquerque Journal and its reporters are committed to telling the stories of our community.

• Do you have a question you want someone to try to answer for you? Do you have a bright spot you want to share?
   We want to hear from you. Please email yourstory@abqjournal.com

taboola desktop

1
Can state parks be climate resilient?
From the newspaper
One of the hats I wear ... One of the hats I wear is State Parks Advisory Board (PAB) member and the chair of PAB's clima ...
2
Legislators should focus on real solutions to confront crime
From the newspaper
NM can't keep throwing time, money ... NM can't keep throwing time, money on jailing as many as possible
3
Sandia Labs offers free online cybersecurity boot camp
From the newspaper
Businesses, groups can get help to ... Businesses, groups can get help to beef up their online protections
4
NM department heads, others didn't disclose financial info
ABQnews Seeker
Elected officials, the leaders of state ... Elected officials, the leaders of state agencies and certain other appointees are required to file annual disclosures
5
Biden urges Western unity on Ukraine
From the newspaper
British PM Johnson warns against allowing ... British PM Johnson warns against allowing war 'fatigue' to take hold
6
New Mexico paid sick leave law set to take ...
ABQnews Seeker
The Healthy Workplaces Act applies to ... The Healthy Workplaces Act applies to all private businesses
7
How does New Mexico's paid sick leave law work?
ABQnews Seeker
Q&A about the new law Q&A about the new law
8
APD: 2 shot to death in west Albuquerque
ABQnews Seeker
Officials says victims 'appear to be ... Officials says victims 'appear to be related'
9
Albuquerque local to compete on 'American Ninja Warrior'
ABQnews Seeker
Katie Bone, 16, also has chance ... Katie Bone, 16, also has chance to raise awareness for Type 1 diabetes on show