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Scam of the Week: Research turns deal for home into a ‘no sale’

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — He was a “man of God,” hoping to rent out his four-bedroom Albuquerque home (already furnished) after his daughter and son-in-law died in a car wreck.

The price was right – $1,200 a month, and the Los Lunas woman who saw the alleged reverend’s Craigslist ad was interested in the home for use as a short-term rental.

Funny thing, though. Besides the basic application details, the supposed landlord asked what her mortgage payment was and wanted to see a photo of her family. When she complied with both requests, her husband caught on to the scam and put a stop to the transaction.

In fact, he learned that the house the reverend was trying to rent was actually for sale by someone else. And when the husband questioned him about this, the reverend promised to send documents verifying his claims. He also offered to cut the price in half, on the spot, and asked the couple to wire him the money because he was out of town.

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In the meantime, he wanted to know, could the husband please swing by the property and take the “For Sale” sign down?

Sheesh.

Here’s advice from Craigslist: “Deal locally, face to face. Follow this one rule and avoid 99 percent of scam attempts.”

Also, do not rent or purchase sight unseen, never give out financial information and do not ever wire funds. “Anyone who asks you to is a scammer,” the site says.

In fact, don’t give out any information – in person or otherwise – that seems extraneous and has nothing to do with the transaction. In other words, if it sounds weird, it is weird.

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And here’s some other advice, courtesy of Joan Andersen, a former switchboard operator who knows her stuff.

She’s 84, and she suggests a decidedly low-tech way of thwarting scammers.

Although the Albuquerque woman does have a caller ID, it’s a small one and she can’t always read the numbers. So, she says, “I just fall back on my mid-century (20th century) training as a switchboard operator. If you don’t know what a switchboard operator is, Google it.”

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She says her career involved taking calls for all kinds of bosses, some of whom didn’t like talking on the phone. She learned to give callers the “runaround.”

That means avoiding answering any questions, and instead, she says, ask your own: “Who is this?” and “What’s this about?” Follow that with a “She’s sick … or out of town or only taking calls between 10 and 2.”

The scam callers, she says, usually get mad and hang up. Some leave a phone number and ask for a return call, which of course, they are never going to get.

“My thing is to go into my screening mode. I perfected this years ago with all kinds of eccentric people.”

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Good news: New Mexico now has a law requiring companies to tell customers when their identity has been stolen. The Data Breach Notification Act passed unanimously in the House and Senate, and Gov. Susana Martinez has signed it.

Once consumers get such notification, they can take steps to prevent financial damage by notifying their credit card companies and placing alerts on their accounts.

Plus, New Mexico gets to be taken off the skimpy list of states without such a law. Alabama and South Dakota are now the only states that don’t require such notification, said Paul Stull, president and CEO of the Credit Union Association of New Mexico, who has spent years pushing for change.

Ellen Marks is assistant business editor at the Albuquerque Journal. Contact her 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 1-844-255-9210.

 


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