San Juan County law enforcement warn of new phone scam
Four tips on how to avoid being scammed over the phone.
Scammers want $750 to cover bond on fake warrants
FARMINGTON — Pam Lee typically doesn't fall for telephone scams, but a recent scam operating under the guise of San Juan County law enforcement left her in fear of going to jail.
Lee was one of several people who contacted law enforcement regarding a recent scam where a citizen is told they have an active warrant for failing to appear in court — and are advised to contact a bail bonds company to make arrangements to pay them $750.
The San Juan County Sheriff's Office posted information about the scam on Feb. 6 to its Facebook page along with a graphic stating the sheriff's office along with other governmental entities do not call and demand payment over the phone for warrants and fines.
Sgt. James Roberts of the Sheriff's Office echoed that statement.
"Unfortunately, we see it frequently that people fall victim to these kinds of scams out of fear they have a warrant for arrest and they are just trying to clean it up," Robert said.
For Lee, she feels like she should have seen the red flags which popped up on the two phone calls she made.
Lee called a number after receiving a voicemail on her landline without verifying it.
She added a man claiming to be Sgt. Chris Turner of the "San Juan County Judicial Service" told her she had three outstanding warrants in relation to failing to show up for jury duty.
The "San Juan County Judicial Service" does not exist, nor does a Sgt. Chris Turner, Roberts said.
The man pretending to be Sgt. Turner sounded convincing to Lee. She said she was frightened by the threat of going to jail.
"I was literally shaking," Lee said.
Alert store manager saves the day
Lee was referred to a company called Nation Wide Bonding where a woman directed Lee to make three payments of $250 on three pre-paid debit cards and to give her the information on the cards to make a payment on a bond.
Lee retrieved $800 from her savings account and was ready to purchase the pre-paid debit cards at the Walgreens at the intersection of East 20th Street and Butler Avenue when the store's policy prevented her from sending more than $500 a day and $200 per card.
"They just got me, big time," Lee said about the scammers. "I even had the money on the counter to buy the cards."
A manager asked Lee why she was so desperate to send the money and Lee told her about the phone call. The manager advised her it was a scam and to call the Sheriff's Office.
Lee realized it was a scam after speaking to law enforcement.
'I told the (manager) it was a scam and I hugged her," Lee said. "I almost lost $800. I came home less nervous but mad as hell."
She believes she was targeted because the scammers possibly knew her age, because they also knew her home address and telephone numbers.
"I worry that a senior citizen is going to get this scam and if they had to pay $800, my gosh, I can't comprehend that," Lee said.
Roberts said con artists use many official-sounding names — including San Juan County Court Services — when they attempt to scam people.
Roberts warned that any person trying to collect money over the phone, regardless of the reason, is most likely a scammer.
He said law enforcement will mail a summons or serve a warrant directly to the person.
Not the only con going on
Scammers target a variety of people using different methods.
The Aztec Chamber of Commerce issued an advisory stating a company called Hometown Publications had been contacting Aztec businesses posing as the chamber to sell ads for a map of Aztec, according to an Aztec Chamber of Commerce email.
The chamber advised it is not working with the company and has not endorsed the sale of such ads.
San Juan County resident Barbara Bowman told The Daily Times someone claiming to be a representative from Dish Network called her from a number which spoofed the official Dish Network number on her caller id.
She said the man provided some information of hers, which she confirmed.
Bowman then gave the man information on her Dish Network receiver, which led to him accessing the menus and channels.
The man was attempting to get Bowman's bank card and bank account information from her to pay for the new "programming" he wanted to add to her account.
"He had me fooled until he asked for my bank card information," Bowman said.
In response to Bowman's case, Dish Network issued a statement that the company takes third-party fraud very seriously, and warned that scammers claiming to be a representative offer a service or promotion in exchange for an upfront payment.
“DISH will not call customers asking for personal information. If consumers question the authenticity of a caller for any reason, we encourage them to hang up the phone and contact their pay-TV provider directly," Dish Network said in a statement.
Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.