Albuquerque neighborhood associations targeted by online scammers

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ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Some Albuquerque neighborhoods are being targeted by scammers.

The city says it’s now heard of a handful of instances of people pretending to be from neighborhood associations and trying to get cash through email.

The Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association recently dealt with one of the apparent scams after someone spoofed the association president’s email.

“I’m surprised that anyone would try that with a neighborhood association at all,” said Terri Spiak, president of the Taylor Ranch Neighborhood Association.

Spiak says someone masked an email as coming from “president@trna.org.” That address is merely a forwarding address that goes to Spiak’s personal email.

The fraudulent email went to the association’s treasurer. The suspect message addressed to the treasurer read, “I need you to take care of a payment to a vendor for me, I will provide you with the vendor’s information you need in making the payment. I will appreciate swift response.”

That email was also signed with Terri’s name.

“No, I did not write that,” said Spiak.

The spoofed message asked the neighborhood association’s treasurer to send more than $2,000 to a random address in Utah, claiming it was a needed payment for “computer supplies.”

“That amount of dollars we would never spend in one expense,” said Spiak. “That would comprise mostly about half of our yearly budget expenditure.”

Recognizing the high dollar amount, Spiak says the neighborhood association caught the scam and didn’t lose any money. The idea of losing the funds was an “eye opener” for Spiak.

“It would have eliminated our ability to do other things in the neighborhood, ” said Spiak. “We’ve been holding a back to school event in August, we’ve tried to work on land use issues which sometimes requires money for appeals.”

The city says at least three other neighborhoods have been targeted, including the Antelope Run Neighborhood Association in northeast Albuquerque. The issue was recently sent out as an alert in the city’s weekly neighborhood newsletter.

The city’s Office of Neighborhood Coordination believes scammers are taking advantage of some personal information of association officials listed on their neighborhood websites.

With that information, it’s believed that scammers are using it to try to trick people into paying for bogus fees.

Spiak says it’s a reminder to double check who’s emailing you.

“We were really surprised and especially because the email was actually very personal,” said Spiak.

The Taylor Ranch Neighborhood also says some neighbors recently got a bogus letter claiming to be from a supposed “new” homeowners association. They’re warning residents to watch for that too, especially in already developed neighborhoods.

So far, there’s been no reports of anyone actually paying any money to scammers related to the neighborhood schemes.

The city of Albuquerque’s Office of Neighborhood Coordination recently sent out the following message about the schemes targeting neighborhood associations:

“The ONC and Albuquerque Police Department continue to get notifications from neighborhood association (NA) board members that their NAs are being targeted by online thieves. The online thieves get names and contact information from public NA websites and send e-mail messages claiming to be a specific NA member and asking for money to be transferred or to have checks issued. Beware of any type of e-mail request for money, and always confirm that the request is coming from a verified NA board member.” From: Office of Neighborhood Coordination (ONC) Weekly E-News – Tuesday, Feb. 20, 2018

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