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Telephone scam targets hispanic community

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This story first appeared in Tuesday’s Daily Record on the Spanish page.

When Elva Barron was busy, she forgot one of her own rules about answering her phone. She got lucky.
“It was when I was taking care of my grandson,” Barron said. “I had left my phone in the bedroom so I had to rush to get it, and I didn’t look at the number so I answered.”
She had just made herself vulnerable to a potential thief.
“The guy kept saying ‘Tia,’ calling me his aunt,” she said. “I told him, ‘No I’m not. You’ve got the wrong number.’ He said, ‘No, you’re my tia’ I said, ‘No, I’m not.’ I asked him ‘What is your name?’ and he wouldn’t tell me. He just kept telling me that I’m his tia.”
Fortunately, Barron knew he could not be her nephew.
“I only have two nephews and they don’t live in Mexico,” she said. “I asked what his name was again and he would not tell me. Then he asked me my name and I told him my first name.”
“The conversation wasn’t very long because he kept insisting,” Barron said. “He said maybe it was from my husband. Well, my husband is from Oklahoma, I said no. Then he said maybe from another state and I said no. I finally said ‘I am not your aunt. You’ve got the wrong number. Goodbye.’ Then he said goodbye.”
Barron was right to be suspicious.
“He was trying to be very convincing,” she said. “The first clue was that I don’t have nephews in Mexico and they know who I am because I only have two. It wasn’t a very long conversation because I caught on and he finally gave up.”
It was a good reminder for her to always check the incoming number.
“Normally I look at the phone,” Barron said, “but I was busy with my grandbaby so I didn’t look at the number first.”
Barron echoed the sentiments of many who are on the receiving end of attempted scams.
“It can be scary after you hang up and realize it was somebody who was trying to do something to you,” she said. “I’m very thankful that it didn’t happen to me.”
Others were not so lucky. This scam has worked in the past on unsuspecting and kind-hearted people.
The scammer’s mode of operation is to call and see if he can convince his prey that he is a family member from Mexico. If he accomplishes that, he will tell them that he is coming to the states to visit soon and would like to see them. He then tells them he will call later when he’s nearby.
A bit later, maybe a day maybe more, he will call again saying he is being held at the border and he needs them to pay so he can be released. Some have paid.
One woman said her father would have fallen for the scam except when he called his sister about it she told him that her son, whom the caller was pretending to be, was right there with her and was not planning to visit any time soon.
A man who received the call knew about the scams and he let the caller go on for awhile before telling them that he knew their game and wasn’t going to give them money. The man said the caller suddenly turned mean and started cursing at him and threatening him.
When receiving phone calls from unknown numbers it is wise to always be very careful. If you aren’t sure who the caller is, or that they are who they claim to be, don’t give them any personal information and don’t send them any money. If they claim it is an emergency, but you do not know them, it is not an emergency –– it is a scam.
It’s probably best to let unknown numbers go to your voicemail. If they leave a message you can decide how to handle it then. There are free “call recorder” apps available for smart phones with Android or iOS. Some of those apps record both people in the phone call.
If you do receive a call you feel might be a scam attempt, contact the New Mexico State Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division at 1-844-255-9210.
The Roswell Police Department will not be able to investigate a call from outside of Roswell. However they can still issue a warning to all residents, so telling them is also wise.
Remember, if you are in doubt, don’t give out any personal information and don’t confirm anything they say about you. Good luck!
Features reporter Curtis M. Michaels can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 205, or at reporter04@rdrnews.com.