Be wary of warrant for arrest scam
This summer, an elderly woman from Lovington showed up to the Lea County Courthouse to turn herself in.
After much confusion, it was determined the woman was scammed out of more than $2,000 by a caller pretending to be a Lovington police officer. The imposter convinced her to send money almost 10 different times over a period of a week. She said it felt like the scammers were tracking her and knew her every move. When she found out the whole scheme was a ploy, someone called an ambulance because she nearly fell to the ground.
The woman nearly had a heart attack when she found out the whole ploy was a lie.
“It hit me like a ton of bricks,” said the elderly woman, who wished to remain anonymous. “You wonder, ‘why me?’ Why did they choose me?”
The con artist told the woman there was a warrant to arrest her for missing jury duty and gave her the name of an actual Lovington police officer and a Lea County judge. When she asked to speak with someone else because there had been a mistake, they transferred her to another person, making the call seem legitimate.
Lovington Detective David Miranda said it’s not unusual for a scammer to pretend to be law enforcement.
“It’s not hard to get an officer’s name. You can get an officer’s name off of a traffic ticket,” he said.
Miranda handles one or two fraud cases a month and perpetrators of these types of cases could range from family members of the victim to an unknown person in Africa, he said. Scam investigations are difficult because they involve working with entities in other states and a lot of times people don’t report them right away because they feel embarrassed.
“You feel so ridiculous. You feel so gullible. You feel so dumb. And, that’s just some of the things you feel,” said the woman. “I went along with it. I really thought they were police officers.
She fell for the scheme because she’s not familiar with the legal system, she said.
Lovington Magistrate Judge David Finger, who advocates for scam victims, tried to help the woman when he found out she was scammed. Scams are becoming more elaborate and prevalent across the state, according to Finger.
There have been two recent scam incidents in Lea County, he said. One victim was from Hobbs and the other from Lovington. Although one scammer used specific Lea County officials’ names, Finger said he doesn’t believe Lea County is a definitive target for scammers.
“I get the sense it’s a scatter shark. They throw something out there and hope somebody will bite,” he said. “What we’re seeing is probably just the tip of the iceberg.”
Like the elderly woman and Miranda, Finger said people shouldn’t be embarrassed because the scenario is plausible. Anyone could miss jury duty, Finger said. Although the scenario is possible, it’s rare a warrant would be issued for missing jury duty. The court issues a summons before issuing a warrant to an absent juror.
In addition, people can pay court fees online using a credit card through the state’s website, but payments are never taken through Western Union or a pre-paid credit card, which is how scammers typically ask victims to transfer money, Finger said. An officer would also never call someone to tell them they have a bench warrant.
Although scam victims rarely get their money back, they can fill out a consumer complaint at the state Attorney General’s Office website, www.nmag.gov.Scams can also be reported to the Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov/complaint.Phony IRS tax scam emails can be forwarded to firstname.lastname@example.org.
To stop unsolicited calls, the Attorney General’s Office recommended registering your home and mobile phone number with the National Do Not Call Registry. If you’re registered and you still get calls, you can report calls to www.donotcall.gov.