Watchful couple avoid falling into utility trap

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“We were nervous, we were scared, we were panicked,” says Judy Lawrence, financial advisor, consultant and author in Albuquerque.

Lawrence and her husband, Steve, know about the scams – they hear about them, read about them, and Lawrence discusses them in the webinars she hosts.

But that didn’t stop the couple from alarming when they were confronted with one of PNM’s ubiquitous scams, in which a bogus employee warns that the power is about to be cut unless a “late” payment will not be made immediately.

“What fascinated me about this whole event were our reactions,” Lawrence said. “We are highly educated and intelligent older people, but we found ourselves in the midst of an emotional reaction to the urgency, fear and doubts of these times.”

It can happen to anyone because that’s what many crooks are good at: scaring people with terrible threats so their victims don’t have time to think about it.

Steve got the warning call on his way home on a recent frosty day. The caller said trucks were on their way to his house and he needed to provide his credit card number immediately to avoid freezing in the dark.

Steve called his wife, who found PNM’s email confirming the payment. She also confirmed that the money had been withdrawn from their bank account.

Still, they felt unsettled – especially after the caller said it could all be an accounting issue, but whatever, they were $ 380 behind.

It wasn’t until they called PNM that they were sure it was just a scam.

The couple wanted to tell their story as a warning that no matter how well you think you are, you can still be vulnerable.

Steve said the appellant was “bossy, he was aggressive. What do elderly people living alone do? You can just see how they would panic.

Realize that bad actors are very good at bullying and resist the urge to act immediately. Check directly with the utility or company, using a phone number you obtained independently. Do not click a link in unsolicited text or email.

In PNM’s case, the utility sends notices to customers with overdue balances. It also offers support programs and “encourages customers to check their balance themselves,” according to the PNM website. Customers are allowed to pay with the option that best suits them.

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Some people signing up for a streaming service, like Netflix, Hulu, or Disney +, have reported that scammers try to obtain personal data when the account is activated.

Knowing that you need to log into your web browser to launch the service, these websites appeared and look like those owned by legitimate streaming providers.

Tips from the Better Business Bureau:

• Make sure you visit an official website. Examine the URL carefully to see that it is spelled correctly and with no changed characters or letters. Remember, just because a website is at the top of a search list doesn’t mean that it is legitimate. Never enter a username and password if you are unsure of its legitimacy. Do not enter personal information on third party websites.

• Watch out for advertisements and sponsored links.

Contact Ellen Marks at [email protected] or 505-823-3842 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 1-888-255-9210 or file a complaint at www.nmag.gov/file-a-complaint.aspx.


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