Two fake scenarios involve city of Farmington

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FARMINGTON — State and local officials are advising citizens to be vigilant as certain phone scams are seeing a recent increase in local activity.

There are three types of phone scams resurfacing that Farmington citizens have reported to the Farmington Police Department recently, according to spokesperson Georgette Allen.

"We're trying to encourage people who have loved ones or friends who are not on the Internet to make sure the information is getting to them," Allen said.

The three scams deal with law enforcement, the Farmington Electric Utility System and cell phone service providers.

Scammers have been spoofing or imitating the phone numbers of the Farmington Police Department, and calling people to warn them they have a warrant for their arrest. The targets of the scam are instructed to pay the caller or they will be arrested, Allen said. 

Allen added some of the scammers have been using Farmington police Chief Steve Hebbe's name in the calls.

Some Farmington detectives have received phone scam calls that spoofed their own work phone numbers.

"The chief is never going to call you and say, 'You got a warrant, and I'm coming to arrest you,'" Allen said.

Scammers often request that payments be made by having the victim purchase a prepaid debit, credit or gift card, then call the scammer back and share the information on the card with them, according to Allen. She said sometimes scammers will even request that the victim stay on the line with them while they purchase a card from a third party.

Any request that involves payment using that method should be a big red flag to potential victims, according to Jennie Lusk, director of the consumer and family advocacy services division for the New Mexico Attorney General's Office. Lusk said nobody running a reputable business would request payment that way.

The Farmington Electric Utility System has been dealing with a similar issue. Scammers have been spoofing the city of Farmington phone numbers, warning account holders they are behind on payments and demanding money to avoid termination of service, Allen said.

The Farmington Electric Utility System mails disconnection notices to users, and citizens can call 505-599-1353 to check the status of their account, according to a Farmington Police Department press release.

Lusk reminded citizens that they are in control as the scammers try to get people to respond out of impulse or the scammer's politeness.

"A lot of times, the scammer (acts like the) consumer's best friend," Lusk said.

Both Allen and Lusk warned citizens to avoid sharing any personal information with someone who could be a scammer. They also suggested that citizens verify any claim by hanging up the phone and calling the organization or company that the caller claimed to represent.

Lusk said even the AG's Office has received calls from scammers calling residents, warning them their Social Security number has been deactivated and seeking personal information to reactivate the number.

Farmington police also have received reports of a scam in which the caller claims to be a representative of the recipient's cell phone service, stating their service will be suspended unless they confirm their personal information, Allen said.

Farmington residents can report the scams to the police by calling nonemergency dispatch at 505-334-6622.

Scams can be reported to the New Mexico Attorney General's Office at www.nmag.gov or to the Federal Trade Commission by visiting www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or calling 1-877-382-4357.

Joshua Kellogg covers crime, courts and social issues for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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