Don’t be a sucker for love, failed-bank plea or empty gift card - Albuquerque Journal

Don’t be a sucker for love, failed-bank plea or empty gift card

New Mexicans appear to be suckers for love. A new study reports that the state ranked No. 2 in the nation for the percentage rise in money lost to romance scams, from 2021 to 2022. The average loss per victim in New Mexico was $57,001, the third-highest in the nation, according to Social Catfish, an online investigation service.

New Mexico’s staggering rise — 269% — was second only to Arkansas’ growth of 398%.

“Despite increased government warnings, pop culture shows like ‘The Tinder Swindler’ – which aired last year on Netflix and increased public awareness – romance scams continue to leave an unprecedented number of Americans broke and heartbroken,” the company said in its report.

Nationwide, losses to this type of fraud hit a record $1.3 billion in 2022, the organization reported.

The most common payment method draining victims of their money was through cryptocurrency, while requested bank wire transfers were second.

Bank failures spawn scammers

Banks and government agencies are warning consumers that recent bank failures are resulting in fraudulent activity.

It’s happening as the banks’ vendors are asked to update their routing information in the wake of the failures.

Capital One, for example, is warning its customers in New Mexico and elsewhere about fraudsters trying to trick people into sending money to a fake bank account or providing personal account information. They are, the bank says, “preying on common anxieties.”

Customers should “exercise caution in handling emails with bank-related subject lines, attachments or links,” says the U.S. Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency. “In addition, be wary of social media pleas, texts or door-to-door solicitations relating to any failed bank.”

And, no, the FDIC – the receiver of failed banks – is not going to call you.

Gift cards at risk

It might be convenient to accomplish your gift-buying needs by relying on a gift card rack at your local grocery or pharmacy.

Doing so could be dangerous, though.

Criminals can tamper with the cards when the display is not behind a counter. Specifically, they can tamper with the packaging so they can record the gift number and PIN. Once the customer activates that card, the thief can use technology to steal the money before customers can spend it.

A 2020 AARP survey showed one in four adults said they had given or received a gift card that had no balance on it.

To avoid this happening to you:

  • Consider buying gift cards online directly from the business that issues them.
  • If you buy in-person, remember it’s safer to purchase cards displayed behind the counter or near the checkout where thievery is less likely,
  • Always look for any visible signs of tampering.
  • If the option is offered, register your card with the retailer. Doing so makes it easier to track and report any issues that arise.

Contact Ellen Marks at 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 Social Catfish, a company dedicated to preventing online scams through reverse search technology, is at

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