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All Posts > Fraud

Security Taxes Fraud

‘Tis the season! For taxes, that is. And, unfortunately, the tax scammers who come with them.

IRS scams are not new, and they’re also not isolated to the early spring. But there’s no doubt that these types of scams pick up the pace around this time of year. And after a year filled with record high unemployment claims, stimulus checks and more, 2020 is shaping up to be a complicated one for taxes.

“This is an extraordinary year for fraud,” says Eva Velasquez, president and CEO of the Identity Theft Resource Center.
(as reported by the AARP)

If you’re getting ready to file your 2020 taxes or waiting for a stimulus check from the IRA make sure you don’t fall prey to these common scams. Here are a few opening lines you may hear if you encounter an IRS scammer.

“We need a small payment to release your stimulus check!” Whether you get this message during a phone call, in a text, or in an e-mail, it’s never true. Stimulus checks will either automatically drop in your account (if the IRS has your information) or will be sent in the mail. Check on the status of the latest stimulus check here.

“We have issued a warrant for your arrest due to back taxes—unless you pay!” The IRS will never call you with a message like this. If you receive a letter from the IRS about your taxes, contact the agency yourself to verify. Don’t pay money or give personal information over the phone, via text, or online! If it’s an e-mail, just delete it.

“Click here to update your bank information.” The IRS does not e-mail, call, or text you to ask for banking information. You can hang up, delete the e- mail, or ignore the text. If there is an issue with your tax return, your tax preparer will alert you or you’ll be prompted to fix your return on your own.

“You must give us a gift card to fix fraud on your account.” Demanding payments, especially with a very specific method like purchasing a gift card, is a big red flag. In fact, requesting gift cards as payment is a key indicator of a scam, no matter what the subject of the scam is. The reason is because gift cards are not traceable or refundable. Once you’ve purchased it and sent the information to the scammer, there is no way to retrieve your money.

“There’s no need for us to sign your tax return.” If you’re paying a person or a service to complete your tax return form for you, that preparer is absolutely required to sign it and provide their preparer tax identification number (PTIN). A refusal to do so is indicative of a less-than-trustworthy tax preparer. Never sign your form if it’s blank. Considering the level of personal information that is turned over to tax preparers, you should be very careful about whom you choose to help you complete tax returns. If you do have problems with a tax preparer, you can file a complaint with the IRS by submitting Form 14157, a Return Preparer Complaint.

Have you ever encountered a tax scammer? Some fraud schemes are easy to spot, but others can take you by surprise. Rely only on reputable tax preparation services, never share personal information when prompted (and especially when threatened) to do so. And remember: the IRS will never e- mail, call, or text you asking for payments with gift cards.

Security Fraud

We often write about the various methods that fraudsters and criminals use to steal info and money from victims. Sometimes, the attempt is relatively obvious. Other methods, like a well-done spoof, are more difficult to detect.

In late February, a local New Mexico school district warned parents about a spoofed website, built to look virtually identical to the real school district website. The website was well done, the fake good enough to not be obvious at first glance. But it held many of the hallmarks of a spoofed website—if you knew where to look.

What’s a spoofed website?

A spoofed website is a site built to mimic a legitimate website for malicious purposes. A spoofed bank site, for example, could fool customers and members into entering their banking login information, exposing it to the criminals. Another high-profile example of spoofing occurred in November 2020. The FBI issued a warning that several spoofed websites mimicking the federal agency’s official site. According to the FBI:

“Adversaries can use spoofed domains and email accounts to disseminate false information; gather valid usernames, passwords, and email addresses; collect personally identifiable information; and spread malware, leading to further compromises and potential financial losses.”

Some of the spoofed domains are highly suspicious; but others could easily be mistaking for an official FBI page.

A domain that is similar to a legitimate domain but not identical is a hallmark of a spoofed website. For example, our website domain is A hypothetical spoofed domain could be close to the original ( or add a subdomain ( to fool you into thinking it’s the real Kirtland FCU site.

In the school district incident, the spoofed domain had a single extra letter: vs.

With a spoofed domain, a fraudster can also create email addresses with that domain in order to extend the deceit to inboxes. So be sure to check any domain of an email address before you decide to open it or interact with it.

How to spot a spoof

A good spoof can look identical to the legitimate site it’s purporting to be. But there are signs that you aren’t looking at the real website. Here is what the FBI says you can do to spot a spoof and keep yourself safe:
  • Verify the spelling of web addresses, websites, and email addresses that look trustworthy but may be imitations of legitimate election websites.
  • Ensure operating systems and applications are updated to the most current versions.
  • Update anti-malware and anti-virus software and conduct regular network scans.
  • Do not enable macros on documents downloaded from an email unless absolutely necessary, and after ensuring the file is not malicious.
  • Do not open emails or attachments from unknown individuals. Do not communicate with unsolicited email senders.
  • Never provide personal information of any sort via email. Be aware that many emails requesting your personal information may appear to be legitimate.
  • Use strong two-factor authentication if possible, using biometrics, hardware tokens, or authentication apps when available.
  • Use domain whitelisting to allow outgoing network traffic to websites that are deemed safe.
  • Disable or remove unneeded software applications.
  • Verify that the website you visit has a Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) certificate. In other words, check to make sure the address has https, not just http at the beginning of the URL.
Think you spotted a spoofed website? Report it to the FBI.

Security Fraud

Have you clicked on a link on Facebook and bought a really cool product, only for that product to never appear? Have you seen posts from friends touting a “Secret Sister” gift exchange and wondered if there was a catch? Or gotten a message from a friend claiming to have an embarrassing video of you?

Social media has played a pivotal role in staying connected to family and friends during the pandemic. But according to the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel Network, social media has served as fertile ground for scammers. These examples are just a few of the hot scams running rampant on social media sites during this pandemic.

Social media makes it incredibly easy for scammers to hide their identity—or even pretend to be someone else—while providing access to an extremely wide network of potential targets. And the angles are nearly limitless.

One avenue that saw incidents skyrocket during the pandemic is e-commerce sites that don’t deliver the product, and nearly one-quarter of the reports involve a social media hook. And in reports that mention a specific platform, 94% mention Facebook or Instagram.

Social media is a particularly popular outlet for romance scams—in fact, more people than every have reported losing money to romance scams. And half of all romance scams since 2019 involve social media in some form.

Unemployment was a major symptom of the pandemic and related restrictions on business nationwide. As more and more citizens lost jobs or were forced to quit to take care of children home from school, multi-level marketing companies provide what seems like an easy way to earn money from home. Many recruiters offer too-good-to-be-true earnings, which is always a red flag of employment scams. The fact is, some MLM companies are pyramid schemes; and even ones that aren’t rarely see their “employees” striking it rich. In fact, most people who join an MLM make little or no money with it.

And social media groups, such as those found on Facebook, have become a hot target of scammers. Those in groups tend to trust the group’s members—a scammer who has become one of the group has an easy time finding targets.

How can you keep yourself safe from the multitude of scams and pitfalls on social media? According to the FTC:
  • Before you buy based on an ad or post, check out the company. Type its name in a search engine with words like or “scam” or “complaint.”
  • Never send money to a love interest you have not met in person.
  • If you get a message from a friend about a way to get some financial relief, call them. Did they forward it to you? If not, tell them their account may have been hacked. If so, check it out before you act.
  • Before paying into an “opportunity” to earn money, check out
  • Don’t make it easy for scammers to target you – check your social media privacy settings to limit what you share publicly.
If you spot a scam, report it to the social media site and the FTC at  


Security Fraud

New Mexico’s electric utility, PNM, is once again warning customers to be on the lookout for scams related to PNM service:

PNM is warning its customers throughout New Mexico to be on the lookout for phone scams, especially on the weekends. PNM is seeing a surge in scam reports from residential and business customers that scammers are spoofing the PNM name and phone number, pretending to be with PNM, are insisting a past due balance is owed, and are threatening to disconnect electricity unless customers pay, within an hour, with a prepaid gift card.


New Mexico’s electric utility, PNM, is once again warning customers to be on the lookout for scams related to PNM service
Spoofing is a tactic that includes adding a false PNM caller ID name on their phone number to get customers to answer or they leave false call-back phone numbers. Then when customers return the call, they hear similar on-hold messages as PNM, often with a low sound quality, duping customers into thinking it is legitimate.

Classic sign of a phone scam

The common element in all the phone scams is the demand to only make payments with prepaid gift cards. This is a scam.

Spotting a scammer

Scammers are smart and are getting more and more savvy every day to try and convince people they are legitimate.
  • Scammers will claim they are with PNM. If you suspect the person on the other end may not be with PNM, hang up and call PNM yourself at 888-DIAL-PNM (888-342-5766). They’ll be able to tell you if a PNM representative contacted you and whether you are past due.
  • Scammers often spoof the PNM phone number on your caller ID, making it look like PNM is calling you.
  • Scammers sometimes call you from what looks like a local number or a number that is similar to your own.
  • Scammers sometimes leave a false number for you to return their call. When you do, you hear similar on-hold messages as PNM, but often is low sound-quality.
  • Scammers will claim you are past-due on your bill. Customers should check their own bill for their current balance. If customers are ever uncertain if a caller is from PNM, hang up and initiate the call yourself at 888-DIAL-PNM (888-342-5766) Monday through Friday from 7:30 A.M. until 6 P.M. If you wanted to verify your balance, you can also text #BAL to 78766 from the phone number connected to your PNM account. PNM will instantly text you your account balance so you know whether or not you were just called by a scammer. Not registered to text with PNM? Text #REG to 78766 from the phone number connected to your PNM account to register. Even if you are late with your bill, there are several ways to quickly and safely pay without giving the caller personal or financial information.
  • Scammers will demand you pay within a short window of time, usually 1-hour, to avoid shutoff.
  • Scammers usually demand between $200 and $500 for residential customers and more than $1,000 for commercial customers.
  • Scammers tend to target customers by calling during weekends, when PNM is closed, making it more difficult to verify the scammer’s claims and more likely that red flags will just be bypassed. This tactic is intentional. PNM does not shutoff power over the weekend or on holidays. Scam reports show that customers went against their better judgement, reacted out of fear, and overlooked the red flags of the scam explaining they were afraid to be without power over the weekend.
  • And the most classic sign of a scam: scammers ask or demand you pay your supposedly past-due bill with a prepaid gift card. PNM will never ask or demand customers pay a past-due bill with a prepaid gift card.
  • Additionally, there are reports of solar salespeople posing as PNM employees purporting to sell solar panels to homeowners. These are likely solar sales lead generators that are obtaining customer information and selling it to solar contractors. They may say they work directly for PNM or that they have been contracted by PNM to install solar on homes. PNM has received reports that sometimes these people are door-to-door rooftop solar salesmen that claim to work for PNM and ask to see your private PNM bill as a lead-in to sell you something. While PNM works proudly with many reputable solar companies, they are not affiliated with this deceptive tactic. If you know of any companies engaging in these practices, please report them to the New Mexico Attorney General's office as soon as possible. Visit and click on the "Submit a Complaint" button to properly report the incident.

Does PNM contact customers about past-due bills?

PNM notifies customers about past due balances and does sometimes reach out to customers, but PNM would never ask customers to pay with a pre-paid gift card. PNM notifies customers of the balance, offers assistance programs, encourages customers to verify their balance on their own, and customers can pay using an option they feel most comfortable. Prepaid gift cards are never part of the conversation, and if they are, PNM encourages customers to hang-up and report the scam.

Report the phone scam

Regardless if it was an attempt to scam you out of money or if the scammer was successful, please report it. PNM is working the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) because these fraudsters are using VoIP telecommunication phone lines to scam customers out of money, which is a federal crime. PNM and the FBI are asking New Mexico customers for help by reporting the details of any scammers that may have contacted them to the FBI so the agency can track and analyze them against similar scams and suspects. Reports can be made here. PNM is also asking customers to report the same information by calling 888-DIAL-PNM (888-342-5766). You may also chat with a representative Monday through Friday from 7:30 a.m. until 6:00 p.m. at or you may submit the details of the scam to PNM here. You can also file a complaint with the FTC and the New Mexico Attorney General's office.

If you need to make a payment quickly

  • Make a payment online
  • Initiate the call yourself by calling PNM 1-888-DIAL PNM (888-342-5766) and follow the prompts for making a payment 24/7.
  • Or you can call KUBRA EZ-PAY directly at 1-844-PNM-PYMT (844-766-7968) to make a payment.
  • Make a payment at more than 70 Western Unions throughout PNM’s service area. Your payment will be noted in their system within 1 hour. Find a location near you.

Security Fraud

The first COVID-19 vaccine in the U.S. is finally approved and making its way into hospitals across the nation. The news was met with relief and hope—and with criminals ready to cash in.

COVID-19 scams are popping up like wildfire. On December 3, days ahead of the emergency use authorizing for the first vaccine in the U.S., the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General issued an alert to the public about fraud schemes related to the novel coronavirus (COVID-19). Scammers are already using telemarketing calls, text messages, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits to perpetrate COVID-19-related scams.

These scams are not new, but the introduction of the vaccine has opened a new avenue for fraudsters. Reports of calls, texts, e-mails and social media messages offering faster access to the vaccine—for a price, of course—began rolling in immediately after the announcement of the approval of the first vaccine in the U.S. New Mexico Attorney General Hector Balderas issued a consumer safety advisory warning families to be on the lookout for these scams as they seek or receive the vaccine.

“We will not tolerate fraud and scams in the delivery of this critical vaccine,” said Attorney General Balderas. “Unfortunately during this pandemic, we have seen the rise of individuals who are looking to take advantage of the fear and vulnerability of our families in these uncertain times; but New Mexicans should remain confident in the advice of healthcare professionals and the law enforcement community, who are working diligently to make sure we all stay safe.”

Balderas said the Office of the Attorney General is working in partnership with law enforcement nationwide to warn of potential criminal activity, including theft and illegal advertising of the COVID-19 vaccine. As a number of COVID-19 vaccines come closer to approval and global distribution, ensuring the safety of the supply chain and identifying illicit websites selling fake products will be essential. Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives. According to INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Unit, it has identified 3,000 websites associated with online pharmacies suspected of selling illicit medicines and medical devices, and around 1,700 of those websites contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware.

  • Be vigilant, skeptical and safe. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Do not give payment information to anyone claiming to be selling the vaccine or selling early access. Paying will not gain you access to the vaccine.
  • Beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their personal, medical, and financial information. Medicare will not call beneficiaries to offer COVID-19 related products, services, or benefit review.
  • Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately.
  • Do not respond to, or open hyperlinks in, text messages about COVID-19 from unknown individuals.
  • Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites. If you make an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an official testing site.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone claiming to offer HHS grants related to COVID-19.
  • Check with trusted health authorities for the latest news and information regarding COVID-19 and its vaccines.
Report any suspicious activity related to the COVID-19 vaccine to local law enforcement. New Mexicans can also report suspicious activity to the Office of the Attorney General by calling 1-844-255-9210 or visiting or to the New Mexico Department of Health at 1-855-600-3453.

Security Fraud

The holidays are always a hot season for criminals and fraudsters, and 2020 presents a uniquely rich opportunity for thieves with record numbers of online shoppers expected due to pandemic worries and closures. Here the top six scams lighting up holiday shoppers this year.

1. E-skimming

E-skimming happens with scammers exploit weak links on an e-commerce platform—where you’re completing your online purchases. In many cases, a victim can be re-directed to a malicious domain where the skimming code can capture the customer's information from the checkout page. The skimming code would capture information in real-time and send it to a remote server where the data is collected by the criminals behind the scene. Your credit card data can either be sold or used to make fraudulent purchases from that point going forward.

2. Social Media Scams

In the midst of a pandemic and especially around the holidays, social media offers an important opportunity to safely connect with each other as well as become another avenue for online shopping. But scammers have also flocked to social media. According to the FTC, Reports that people lost money to scams that started on social media more than tripled in the past year, with a sharp increase in the second quarter of 2020.

Reports about scams that started on social media have been increasing for years. In 2019, total reported losses to these frauds reached $134 million. But reported losses reached record highs, climbing to nearly $117 million in just the first six months of 2020. In that time, the reported scams that started on social media often related to online shopping, romance scams, and supposed economic relief or income opportunities.

Online shopping scams often involve the use of social media platforms to set up fake, online stores. By using social media to advertise the fake website; fraudsters take a victim’s payment, but the victim will never see the goods. Those ads you see as you scroll, personalized to your name or job title, are often fake sales.

Not all social media scams are spread by criminals, either. Popular posts by family and friends about the “Secret Sister” gift exchange are actually illegal pyramid schemes.


3. Porch Pirates

This may be one of the most pervasive holiday crimes, and it feels more personal than other digital crimes. These criminals were on your porch! They may follow a delivery truck or simply be taking advantage of an opportunity after spotting a package, but the result is the same—a stolen package off your porch.

4. Buy Online and Curbside Pickup

This is one of the newest avenues for ‘friendly fraud’, where a member may state they didn’t receive an item and want a refund. Curbside pick-up is also another option for fraudsters to intercept your purchase.

5. Shipment Update Scam

This one also saw a major boost in 2020 with the exponential increase in online shopping and deliveries due to the pandemic. This scam involves a text or e-mail claiming that a shipment is delayed unless action is taken immediately to correct the issue. That action involves a link that may install malware on the device or directs to a fake site in order to collect your personal information.

6. Donations and Fake Charities

It’s the season of giving, but not every plea for assistance is legitimate. 

7. Gift Card Scams

It’s a theme with thieves: requesting to be paid in gift cards for a fake service or product or even selling the victim a gift card that is worthless. Make sure you purchase gift cards only from reputable sellers and directly from the particular store if at all possible.

What you can do to protect yourself
A few good rules of thumb will reduce your risk of falling prey to one of these hot 2020 holiday scams.
  • Purchase gifts and gift cards only from reputable sites.
  • Go directly to the site yourself; don’t click links!
  • Keep track of your delivery days and keep an eye out so you can bring packages in quickly. Or, if available, choose to pick up packages curbside.
  • Avoid entering payment information directly if possible. Services such as PayPal allow you to complete purchases safely online without transmitted card information.
  • Sign up for Online and Mobile banking and keep a close eye on your accounts and transactions. Catching fraud early is key to limiting losses!
This holiday season, contactless forms of shopping will be more popular than ever, and criminals are not passing up the opportunity to cash in. Keep yourself safe and stay financially secure this holiday season.

Security Fraud

No, they aren’t.

So much of our lives are accessible on our computers and devices. For many older generations, that technology remains a somewhat of a mystery, making them particularly vulnerable to this scam. Tech support scams are extremely popular, and they hit older generations harder than any other type of scam, according to the FTC. Adults over the age of 60, who may be less tech savvy than younger generations, were five times more likely to be a victim of a tech scam in 2018, according to the FTC. In 2018, these scams cost Americans $55 million, and the median loss was $400. Those are numbers are just from reported cases of fraud; untold numbers may have been victims without realizing that the entire interaction was a sham.

How it works

The tech support scam begins with a pop-up in a browser or a direct contact via e-mail, text or phone call that informs the target of a problem with their computer or device, similar to the Apple Support scam. The problem is entirely fabricated, and the thief will, at best, attempt to get the target to pay money for the “repair” or for bogus warranties.

At worst, the thief will guide the victim to click links, turn over passwords, and information. Some even get the victim to provide remote desktop access in order to “troubleshoot” the imaginary issue. Once inside the victim’s computer, a thief can quietly install malware, spyware, or log into sensitive websites that have saved passwords. Kevin Mitchell, Security and Fraud Specialist at Kirtland FCU says this scam is common.

“It happens every day. Multiple times a day. I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve just gotten off the phone, trying to help someone who ran into this scam,”

Mitchell says scammers routinely use fear as a tactic. Bright flashing boxes proclaiming that your phone or computer will soon stop working certainly inspire worry, and many will click as a result.


How to protect yourself

Tech support scams work because technology can be confusing, and we’re quick to rely on experts to assist us when we feel out of our depth. To protect yourself from tech scammers, remember:
  • Tech support companies will NEVER reach out to you unsolicited. If you’re having an issue with your computer, your phone, or any other piece of technology, call or visit a reputable merchant or service company to discuss the problem and arrange repair. If you haven’t requested a call, feel free to hang up.
  • Don’t click on pop-ups. Those little boxes that pop up on an internet browser that alert you to a problem are a classic form of this scam. Don’t click and close your browser as a precaution.
  • Don’t believe a logo or the caller ID. Many scammers attempt to impersonate legitimate companies. Just because the caller ID says Apple or the e-mail appears to be from Best Buy doesn’t mean it’s a real communication. Content is key. Is the caller claiming to be able to solve a problem you haven’t detected? Are they asking for money or access to your computer? It’s probably a scam.  
  • Protect your passwords. No tech support company will ever request you provide a password. And don’t turn over access to your computer! If you initiated a service call, tech support may request remote access to help you solve a problem, but you should NEVER grant computer access to anyone you haven’t contacted yourself and trust thoroughly. The best idea is to take your computer in for in-person repairs if you’re having a problem.
  • Beware requests for payment or information. Don’t ever enter credit card information or authorize any type of payment for tech support. Repairs will cost you money, but legitimate companies will provide an estimate for the repair before beginning work and charge you upon completion.
  • Don’t let fear guide you. A sense of urgency is key to this scam succeeding. The more pressed you feel to act, the less likely you’ll make a wise decision. If a caller or a pop up is threatening or urging action, take a breath. Think. And click away or hang up!
Mitchell recalls a story of a woman who had given remote access of her computer over to a scammer. The thief used her saved passwords to break into her Online Banking and start moving money around.

“Please don’t save your passwords on your browser,” he urges. “It’s much safer to enter them each time, as much trouble as that can seem. It’s dangerous to leave them out there.”

If you think you may have become a victim of this scam, the best course of action is to immediately disconnect your computer from the internet by shutting off WiFi or unplugging the ethernet cord, says Mitchell. Then, take your computer to a legitimate repair facility to have it checked out and reset if necessary.

Make sure you notify any credit union, financial institution, credit card company, or other business that you may have had access to through your computer. Changing your passwords is a good idea as well.

The tech scam is very common, so always be on the lookout.

Security Fraud

This article was original published in February 2020.

Puerto Rico. California. Florida. Australia.

What do all these places have in common? They’ve all experienced a disaster or event that prompted an outpouring of donations and an influx of charity involvement in the recovery efforts. In the age of coronavirus, need is all around us. Closures have resulted in record unemployment, failed business, and unprecedented challenges in every corner of the country and the globe. Charities that have traditionally relied on annual walks and other fundraising events are facing a crisis, rapidly attempting to bring their fundraising efforts online—digital giving is the name of the game in 2020.

And there’s no question as to the willingness of people to give. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey became the second-costliest storm on record in the United States, causing an estimated $125 billion in damages. In the three months following the storm, at least $1.07 billion is estimated to have been donated to U.S. nonprofit organizations in response, according to a study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. More than 30 percent of U.S. households made a disaster-related donation in 2017 through a variety of sources.

Image from U.S. Household Disaster Giving Report, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy.

Hurricane Harvey relief workers hand out supplies. Photo courtesy of michelmond /

Give directly to reputable organizations
Well-established organizations are the most experienced in working with disaster relief and After a disaster, donations tend to explode. In fact, most donations are made in the first six weeks following a disaster and have all but tapered off six months later. The first few weeks after a disaster, especially one with high-profile news coverage, are prime season for fraudsters who capitalize on the disaster and peoples’ desire to make a difference by posing as a charity organization.

In August of 2019, as Hurricane Dorian approached the shores of Florida, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and the Better Business Bureau offered advice on how to make the most of your donation in the face of a disaster and how to spot a fraudulent attempt to divert donations.  They often have strong local ties and will know how to work together with other agencies as well as governments.

Watch for look-alike charities
It’s not uncommon for organizations to pop up in an attempt to collect a portion of a massive volume of donations being made in the wake of a disaster. Many fraudulent organizations will create names that are similar to legitimate organizations. And even new, legitimate charities may be well-intentioned but not well-positioned to help immediately. Check with for a list of credible charities assisting with recovery efforts or with the IRS’ Tax-Exempt Organization Search to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate organization.

Understand crowdfunding
The explosion of online crowdfunding—the collecting of money for a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people—has made it very easy for fraudsters to cash in after a disaster. If you’re going to donate via a crowdfund, it’s best to makes sure you know the owner personally. The person running the crowdfunding campaign isn’t necessarily the person who you want your money ending up with, and you’re trusting that they’ll follow through on their promises.
Beware direct requests for money
If you’re contacted by someone you don’t know on social media or via e-mail in a direct request for donation funds, you should hear alarm bells in your mind. Legitimate organizations that you aren’t already affiliated with will likely not reach out to you directly to request help. Be even more concerned if that person is requesting gift cards or P2P payments (Apple Pay, Paypal, etc.) Likewise, do not click on links in unsolicited e-mails requesting donations. DO NOT give out personal financial information to anyone who solicits a contribution.

Do not send cash
A cash donation is a bad idea. Leave a paper trail for tax and security purposes by using a check or credit card to make a donation. If something goes wrong, you have avenues you can follow with your card company and documentation of the amount and where it was supposed to go. Checks have to be cashed somewhere. When you hand over cash or gift cards, the trail ends—and if you’ve given your donation to a fraudster, you have no path for recourse.

Report suspected fraud
If you receive an e-mail requesting donations and suspect it may be fraudulent, report it to the IRS.

These types of scams are not limited to disasters or charities: scammers often impersonate political organizations as well, purportedly seeking donations for a candidate or a cause.
We know the desire to help is nearly overwhelming in the days and months following a disaster. And with coronavirus pandemic causing a record need for charitable assistance, opportunities to help abound. By being aware of the dos and don’ts of donation, you’ll be able to avoid fraudsters and make sure your donation provides the maximum amount of relief in the right hands.


Security Fraud

Six months in, the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has devastated the economy with business closures resulting in lost jobs for a record number of people. In fact, as of the end of July, a staggering 28.2 million people claimed unemployment benefits. Last year, 1.6 million people claimed unemployment in the same time period.
For those who have been affected, unemployment benefits are lifeline. Indeed, through the federal CARES Act as well as various state efforts, unemployment benefits have received a boost in recent months. But the exponential increase in unemployment claims, coupled with several state and federal actions design to make applying for unemployment easier, has resulted in an explosion of fraudulent unemployment claims.
How this scam works
The Unemployment Usurper uses stolen personally identifying information—a Social Security number, birth date, name, address, etc.—to fraudulently apply for and receive unemployment benefits in the name of the victim. The incidence of this scam has increased so quickly that the FBI and the Federal Trade Commission have both recently issued warnings to be on alert for this scam.
The imposter may obtain personal information through a variety of methods—data breaches, phishing e-mails and phone calls, public websites, social media accounts, and physical theft of data. Often, the criminal will file the claim under the false identity and set up payments to drop into an account they themselves control.
Victims only learn about the fraud when applying to receive their unemployment benefits, when they receive a notice from their state unemployment benefits office or their employer if currently employed. Red flags that you’ve been targeted in this scam include:
  • Communication regarding unemployment insurance forms when you have not applied for benefits
  • Unauthorized transactions on your bank or credit card statements related to unemployment benefits
  • Fees involved with filing or qualifying for insurance
  • Unsolicited inquiries related to unemployment benefits
  • Fictitious website and social media pages mimicking those of government agencies.
If you are alerted to this activity and you haven’t applied for benefits, it’s likely your information has been stolen and employed in this scam. The benefits may be long gone, but you will need to move quickly to protect your finances and credit from further impacts.
  1. Report the fraud to your employer
  2. Report the fraud to your state unemployment benefits agency (click here for New Mexico’s Department of Workforce Solutions).
  3. Report the fraud to the FTC.
How to avoid this scam
They key to avoiding becoming a victim of this scam is to stay in control of your personal information as much as possible. Familiarize yourself with the various methods scammers use to obtain your data so you can be on the lookout.
  • Be wary of calls, messages, e-mails, letters, and website that ask you to provide your personal information or financial data—especially birth dates and Social Security numbers. Watch for links in e-mails as well. Just because a website looks legitimate doesn’t mean it is. When in doubt, start a new session in your browser and type the website name in directly
  •  Monitor your accounts. Enroll in Online Banking to keep a 24/7 eye on your accounts and set up alerts to notify you of unusual withdrawals and activity.
  • Go paperless. Mailbox theft is common. Keep your statements and other information out of the hands of criminals by opting into electronic statements wherever possible.
  • Check your credit report. You can do this for free once a year at
  • Report unusual activity to your financial institutions, credit card providers, and the IRS. You should also consider notifying the FBI of fraudulent or suspicious activities through the Internet Crime Complaint Center.