City and state officials are warning folks about scammers preying on people’s COVID fears, trying to get personal information or money. Albuquerque’s Consumer Financial Protection Initiative says in one instance, people call saying they’re from the hospital or the government and have your COVID testing results—they just need your Social Security Number to share that info. KUNM spoke with the initiative’s director Karen Meyers about all the scams floating around right now and how people can protect themselves.
KAREN MEYERS: They may tell you that they can send you something that will help you, and then ask for a bank account number or credit card number. What they’re trying to do is, it seems, to phish for your personal information. One of the things that happens with any scam is that they prey on fear. They prey on a feeling that you have to act immediately, and so when they do that when we are under a pandemic like this, it is particularly important not to provide that information?
KUNM: How can people be sure whether they’re talking to somebody legit, or they’re talking to a scammer?
MEYERS: The best thing to do is to hang up the phone and not answer the call. If you have a question for the City of Albuquerque, call 3-1-1. If you have a question about COVID-19, you should call a recognized government phone number by going, through Google, and getting the number for, say, the U.S. Government COVID-19 hotline, and call them directly. What happens, unfortunately, is that scammers have the ability now to mask the numbers on your caller ID. They can use fraudulaent information to make it look like someone from the federal government is calling you, or someone from the City of Albuquerque is calling you, and you believe that when you answer the phone. The best way to be safe is for you to initiate the call to a verified, recognized contact, either by email or phone, that you can rely on is accurate.
KUNM: These scammers and phishers, are they preying on a particularly population?
MEYERS: I don’t know at this point. I would assume that almost everyone is being targeted. Typically, a lot of people who are targeted are seniors, but also young people. Young adults are targeted because they’re so comfortable on social media that they’ll immediately click on something, or they’ll go to a website and not check out whether or not it’s a legitimate website. So young adults are also at risk. Right now, probably everybody that is using social media or answering their phones and believing what they’re being told could be at risk for this. I also understand the New Mexico Attorney General’s office has indicated that people are experiencing people going door-to-door and telling them that they’re sent by the government to test their homes for COVID virus. Do not let anyone in who comes to you like that. They are scammers.
KUNM: We have the phone scam, and now we have this door-to-door canvassing scam. What else is out there that we should be aware of?
MEYERS: Some emails say they’re from the Centers for Disease Control, the CDC. They could identify themselves as experts and offer to sell you vaccines or things that will help you get better fast. So it’s coming at people in a variety of different ways. There also may be online offers for vaccinations that you may get while you’re searching online for information. There also may be charity scams, fraudulent scams saying they’re collecting to help people. We’re recommending there’s a lot of information on the Albuquerque city website. If you go to CABQ.gov/scams, you can find information on a variety of different scams, and how to identify them and how to avoid them. If you think you’ve been the victim of a scam, there are things you can do if you act immediately. If you’ve sent somebody your personal information, there are steps on our website that tell you exactly what to do.
The podcast is part of the project: Your N.M. Government. Funding for our legislative coverage is provided, in part, by the Thornburg Foundation, the New Mexico Local News Fund and KUNM listeners.