Con artists expanding range of disguises

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — The chairman of the Federal Trade Commission, Joseph Simons, did not send you an email.

Nor did the Better Business Bureau call you for information about your Amazon account.

These are the latest examples of spoofing that seek legitimacy by pretending to be from trusted individuals or organizations.

In the case of the FTC scam, emails are going out, supposedly from the chairman, with the subject line “Get back to me.”

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The emails talk about collecting money from an inheritance or from coronavirus relief funds, the FTC says. In either case, it’s an attempt to get personal information like birth date and home address, which can be used in scams.

“Scammers like to make themselves look official by pretending to be from the government,” the FTC says. “They use official-sounding language and images that impersonate federal agencies like the FTC to trick or scare people into responding.”

The BBB phishing scam comes in a variety of flavors, sometimes with a recorded message stating there is a problem with your Amazon account, an unfilled order or a fraudulent charge on your Prime card, the BBB says.

You will be asked for your credit card, account login or other details.

In addition, “the con artists are spoofing other organizations’ phone numbers to help disguise their calls and lend them credibility, … so watch out,” the BBB says.

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Those who track fraud say fake delivery scams are rising because of the boom in online shopping that has been spurred by COVID-19.

Retail e-commerce hit nearly $212 billion in the second quarter of this year, up 32% over the first quarter, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

The scams taking advantage of this boom can be delivered via text message, email or phone call. You are told there’s a package waiting for you or that there’s been some sort of delivery issue, according to fraud.org, a project of the National Consumers League.

To get the item, you are told to click on a link to verify personal information or provide a credit card or bank routing number. Or you might be directed to a website that looks like a legitimate Amazon customer satisfaction survey.

Here are steps you can take, according to fraud.org:

n Don’t click on links or attachments in texts or emails claiming to be from a delivery service. If you receive a phone call, hang up. Do not press “1” to be connected to a representative.

n If you do open a suspicious link, don’t provide any information, even if it’s just to “verify.”

n If you think you might actually have a package waiting, double check at usps.com, ups.com or amazon.com. Please add links and enter the tracking number there.

n If you receive a scam text, forward it to 7726, which sends the message to a spam service operated by wireless carriers to help identity trends in scam texts.

Contact Ellen Marks at [email protected] 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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