Busy thieves threaten licenses and steal pandemic relief

Anyone licensed by the state – barbers, counselors, cannabis growers, etc. – has been tipped off about a scheme in which bogus New Mexico regulatory and licensing employees or investigators demand money from potential victims.

Scammers tell license holders that they are under investigation, that their license may be suspended or that a warrant has been issued in their name.

Then, of course, comes the demand for money.

The agency wants its more than 500,000 licensees to know that it will not contact them to demand payment of any kind for personal information without conducting an official inquiry or investigation.

“If you receive such a call, please decline the request for payment and hang up,” the department said in a notice.

Top Fraud Complaints

New Mexico came in first on a national list — but not in a good way.

A recent report from the Identity Theft Resource Center, idtheftcenter.orgshowed that New Mexicans experienced the most incidents of misuse of government credentials and accounts in 2021, among those who contacted the center.

It received 345 complaints from state residents who said scammers used their stolen personal information to open or take over government accounts or to apply for benefits. Nationally, most of those cases were in unemployment accounts after benefits were increased due to the pandemic, according to the Trends in Identity report.

In New Mexico, a legislative report released last year found the state may have overpaid unemployment benefits by $250 million during the pandemic, including about $133 million for potentially fraudulent claims.

But the category in which New Mexico ranked No. 1 also included the misuse of other pandemic-related payments, including stimulus and child tax credit payments, whether by mail “or through an unauthorized account takeover where the bank account information was altered at the IRS portal, or the money was taken from the account where (it) was deposited,” the report states. .

These incidents did not necessarily involve faceless fraudsters: “Unfortunately, many of those who reported the account takeover knew or had an idea who the thief was, and it was usually a spouse, partner, ‘an ex-spouse or family member.’

Preventing this type of crime, according to the resource center, includes:

• Freeze your credit report.

• Protect your personally identifiable information, including usernames and passwords, social security number, driver’s license, etc., and refuse to share them unless absolutely necessary.

• Use strong and unique passwords, one for each account, and keep them private without giving them to others.

• Using a password manager or the password functionality in traditional browsers to create and remember passwords. Do not use the “remember my password” feature on a website.

• Regularly check your credit reports for any unusual activity, such as credit applications that are not from existing creditors and that you did not initiate.

• Monitor the mail for correspondence from government agencies and lenders and review it carefully so you can take action if necessary.

Contact Ellen Marks at [email protected] or (505) 823-3805 if you know what looks like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Division of Consumer Protection toll-free at 1-844-255-9210, prompt 5. Complaints may be filed electronically at nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.

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