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High fraud cases in New Mexico related to pandemic

Online shopping listed as one of most fraudulent means
Credit card payments were the top listed fraudulent payments in 2020.

FARMINGTON – As the holidays come to a close and life returns to pandemic normal, consumers are urged to keep a watchful eye on their bank and credit card accounts as fraud cases in Farmington were reported to be higher in 2020 than 2019.

The Farmington Police Department reported 53 cases of fraud, either by credit card or identity theft, in 2019. In 2020, that number increased by more than 50% to a total of 81 cases of fraud for the year.

According to the Federal Trade Commission COVID-19 and stimulus reports, almost 300,000 cases of fraud were reported in the U.S. related to the pandemic. New Mexico reported 1,078 cases of pandemic-related fraud with more than $1.5 million in losses and a total of 7,117 fraud cases in general totaling $10.3 million in losses.

Online shopping, impostor, telephone and mobile scams as well as identity theft were among the top most reported fraud cases in New Mexico.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, in Farmington specifically, there were 343 reports filed with the agency in 2020, with the majority being from impostor scams with most fraudulent payment methods being credit cards, and the primary fraudulent form of communication outside of telephone scams being email.

“The holidays and tax season are two key time periods where money and private financial information are in motion more than any other time of year,” said Ron Long, head of Wells Fargo’s Aging Client Services. “Scammers know this keenly, and they count on the increased information movement to prey on you being distracted or unguarded in your activities.”

Long also said to be leery as tax season approaches.

“During tax season in particular, they use fear tactics such as threatening arrest or additional fines from the IRS as a way to goad you into sending money,” Long said.

Wells Fargo suggests people not respond to unsolicited phone calls, texts, emails and pop-up messages asking for consumer information or for a person to confirm information. When getting emails, consumers are urged to not open attachments or follow email links to sign into their bank and credit card accounts.

The company also suggests consumers monitor their bank account and set up alerts to be notified of unusual activity, install antivirus software on computers and create difficult-to-guess passwords that use a combination of letters and numbers.

However, if someone were to suspect fraud or identity theft, Farmington Police Deputy Chief Taft Tracy said, “We ask citizens to please call us if they think they’re being scammed or involved in a fraud. We will gladly help you navigate the situation to prevent falling victim to these kinds of crimes.”

Residents of Farmington can call the Farmington Police Department non-emergency dispatch number at (505) 334-6622 to request to speak with an officer or the Detectives Division at (505) 599-1005 to report fraud.

Residents can also report attempted scam calls to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office at nmag.gov if there was no exchange of money or information.

mmitchell@durangoherald.com

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