Attorney General Gary King Warns Against Flood Victim Relief Scams

Attorney General Gary King is warning New Mexicans to be wary of scams that falsely solicit funds to help victims of recent flooding here in our state and in neighboring Colorado.

Attorney General Gary King
Attorney General Gary King

It is fairly common after natural disasters that scam artists begin tugging at heartstrings to entice unsuspecting people to give money to “victims.” Unfortunately, many of those “victims” turn out to be scammers intent upon preying on the sympathies of those who genuinely want to help others who have been affected by flooding or other weather events. Attorney General King’s Office is advising people to be smart about donating by asking questions and guarding their personal financial information.

The AG’s Office is sharing the following simple tips from the Federal Trade Commission:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust. Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.
  • Ask if a caller is a paid fundraiser, who they work for, and what percentage of your donation goes to the charity and to the fundraiser. If you don’t get a clear answer – or if you don’t like the answer – consider donating to a different organization.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information – including your credit card or bank account number – unless you know the charity is reputable.
  • Never send cash: you can’t be sure the organization will receive your donation, and you won’t have a record for tax purposes.
  • Check out the charity with the AG’s Office Charity Search, Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

New Mexicans can report suspected scams to the AG’s office via email at communi…@nmag.gov, or by filing a complaint report.

Consumer Complaint forms are available by clicking here.

Attorney General Gary King Issues Warnings on Two Scams

 

Attorney General Gary King
Attorney General Gary King

Mortgage Payment Scam 

Attorney General Gary King is warning New Mexico homeowners that an operation out of California is using official-looking documents to convince homeowners to send payments to these firms instead of to their home loan lender or servicer.  Mailings may state “Notice of HUD Relief.”
 
Contacts are by phone or mail from businesses claiming to offer “Making Home Affordable” or Housing and Urban Development (“HUD”) loan modifications. These businesses also use the names:
  • Retention Division
  • Mitigation Center 
  • MHA Processing Center
Although these letters look official, they are not.  Homeowners are reminded to:
  • Confirm any payment arrangements directly with their lender by calling a number provided on their monthly statement.
  • Not make mortgage payments to any third-party, and only make payments to an address provided by their lender.   
  • Be wary of any offers by third-parties to modify or reduce mortgage payments.  Only your lender can change your payments and such agreements should be in writing.  
 
Homeowners who are struggling to make mortgage payments or save their homes have free resources available, including the Attorney General’s  Home Preservation Hotline at  1-855-664-6630 and homeowners can visit: 

Service Disconnection Scam 

Attorney General Gary King says Public Service Company of New Mexico reports an uptick in phone scammers claiming to be PNM who threaten customers with disconnection or meter removal. Residential and business customers have been targeted. PNM says scammers may even be able to disguise the number that appears on your caller ID. 
 
Customers are told by the scammers to purchase a prepaid gift card through PayPal or at a retailer, and then call them back with the card number, which the scammer then redeems. 
 
PNM says it does occasionally make calls to customers to collect a past-due payment.  However, while customers are asked for a payment, they never ask customers to purchase prepaid gift cards or PayPal money cards.  PNM also suggests that customers check their most recent bill for any disconnect notice.  If such notice is not on the bill the phone call is likely a scam. 
 
As always, the Attorney General advises consumers not to give their account or personal information to anyone who makes initial contact.

Attorney General Gary King Warns Against Potential Boston Marathon Bombing Victim Assistance Scams

New Mexico Attorney General Gary King is warning New Mexicans about possible scams by individuals and groups soliciting funds to assist Boston Marathon bombing victims.

AG King says phony charities or other organizations could be seeking monetary donations for the victims of this week’s tragedy in Boston. Anyone who is solicited should make extra efforts to be sure they are donating to a legitimate charity or organization.

REMINDERS:

  • Do not share personal or financial information unless you initiate contact.
  • Always make a donation check payable to the organization not an individual.
  • Never donate cash.
  • Be wary of solicitors who use pressure tactics to get you to donate.
  • Check to see if the charity is registered and filing with the Attorney General’s Charities Unit. For registration information: https://sites.google.com/a/nmag.gov/test-nmag/the_office/Communications-Division/consumer-protection/charities 
  • After tragedies of this nature, there are always individuals who will use the Internet to perpetrate fraud–make sure that the website you visit is operated by the charity you want to donate to. Also, make sure the site is secure and will offer protection for your credit card number.
  • Know your charity. Take the time to verify the address, phone number, contact information, and review the website and written material, when possible.
  • Do not feel compelled to give to the first charity you come across. There are a number of established organizations already responding to the diverse needs created by the tragedy.
  • Ask lots of questions. How much of the money goes to the charity and how much to a professional fundraiser? Ask who employs the telephone solicitor, if your contribution is tax deductible and what the charity intends to do with any excess contributions that might remain after the victims’ needs are addressed.

If you believe you have been contacted by a scammer, please report to the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office at communications@nmag.gov If you have had monetary loss and want to file a complaint with the AG’s office, complaint forms can be downloaded from nmag.gov

Attorney General Gary King: Protect Our Groundwater

Attorney General Gary King
Attorney General Gary King

Groundwater is one of our state’s most precious resources.  Ninety percent of New Mexicans rely on groundwater for drinking water.  Businesses, small and large, need clean groundwater, as do agriculture and ranching.

For the last 35 years, through Democratic and Republican administrations, New Mexico state government has tried to make sure that our groundwater meets water quality standards that protect human health.  However, there is a proposal now before the Water Quality Control Commission from the current administration that would allow pollution of groundwater under copper mining sites.  This proposal, in my view, represents poor public policy and would violate our state’s Water Quality Act.  My office is a party to the proceeding, and proposes an alternate rule that would continue to protect groundwater while allowing copper mining to continue to operate in our state.

At stake is whether copper mining companies will be allowed by rule to pollute groundwater underneath their sites – which are often thousands of acres – or whether they must use the best control technologies to prevent groundwater contamination under their sites.  For decades, our state government has protected groundwater for present and future generations, and has required all operations with the potential to pollute to meet water quality standards.  This principle of environmental protection has been applied to the 900 groundwater permits issued by the state environment department.

For ten years, however, one mining company has fought this principle before the state environment department, the Water Quality Control Commission, the state courts, and the state legislature.  Until now, the company had been rebuffed.  The state environment department and current governor’s administration have taken its side, and has proposed the Copper Mine Rule, which would allow pollution that has not been previously allowed.  Freeport McMoRan, Inc. is an $18 billion international mining company that seeks a break from our water quality protection laws.  It is not a matter of whether the company will be able to continue to mine in New Mexico – it is a matter of whether it will pay more to install state of the art technology to protect our state’s groundwater.

For example, the draft rule would allow new waste rock piles and new tailing impoundments to be constructed without synthetic liners that protect against groundwater contamination.  Waste rock piles and tailing impoundments can cause groundwater contamination as a result of “acid rock drainage,” a process by which the mineral sulfides in the stockpiles and tailings generate acidic solutions when oxidized.  The acidic solutions react with the minerals in the stockpiles and tailings, producing acid rock drainage and associated metals and sulfate contamination which can reach groundwater.  This contamination can continue for hundreds of years.  Synthetic liners for new waste rock piles and tailing impoundments are in use and are effective in preventing acid rock drainage and the resulting groundwater pollution.

Most critically, approval of the proposed rule would set precedent for the other 900 operations, which include the federal labs, other mining companies, and waste water treatment plants.  These permit holders could then be allowed to pollute underneath their sites as well.  If copper companies, which have the potential to pollute thousands of acre feet of groundwater can contaminate under their sites, there would be no basis to deny the same concession for other operations.

The Water Quality Act has been interpreted for 35 years to prevent such pollution.  The environment is not Democrat or Republican.  The environment is for us all.  My office will fight for the present and future generations of New Mexicans to protect our water resources.

Attorney General Gary King: Feds Should Act on Immigration Reform

Attorney General Gary King
Attorney General Gary King

Attorney General Gary King is asking leaders of Congress to support  federal immigration reform that improves the process, keeps communities safe, and protects our borders.

“Today, I join 35 state and territorial attorneys general who have sent a letter to congressional leaders, U.S Secretary of Homeland Security, and the U.S. Attorney General urging them get behind efforts to reform our system of obtaining U.S. citizenship.” said AG King.

The letter from the bipartisan group of attorneys general supports a law enforcement strategy that focuses on public safety, targets serious crime, safeguards witnesses and victims, and considers national security implications along our international borders.

The AG’s group urges a reasonable and predictable regulatory environment that considers the interests of, and the unintended consequences to, businesses, workers, and consumers.  Also, a broader reform effort should eventually include a way to accurately, reliably, and affordably determine who is permitted to work; ensuring an adequate labor force for a growing economy.

In the letter, the attorneys general recognize that immigration policy is primarily a federal responsibility, and pledged to lend their voices and expertise to federal legislators as they move forward in this process.

Attorney General Gary King: High Court Should Reject Texas Request to Sue New Mexico

Attorney General Gary King
Attorney General Gary King

Attorney General Gary King, in a brief filed this week opposing Texas’ motion for Leave to File a Complaint against New Mexico, the AG says that Texas has no grounds to bring suit in the U.S. Supreme Court and that the issues it raises are currently being litigated in ongoing federal and state court cases.

The Attorney General maintains that Texas is making allegations involving two pending water cases in which Texas is not a party; its claims are not based on any specific terms of the Rio Grande Compact; Texas’ complaints are not of the nature of a dispute between sovereign states; and there are alternative legal forums for resolution of the issues raised in Texas’ Complaint.

“We believe New Mexico is living up to the terms of Rio Grande Compact, not violating it,” says AG King. “Texas is attempting to change the RGC in its favor and trying to get the Supreme Court to allow it.”

The Attorney General’s brief states: Recognizing that there is no violation of the express terms of the Compact, Texas alleges instead that New Mexico has violated the “purpose and intent” of the Compact by allowing and authorizing the interception and use of Rio Grande Project (“Project”) water below Elephant Butte Reservoir and before arriving at the Texas-New Mexico state line. The Project is a federal reclamation project owned and operated by the United States. The United States has allocated all of the Project water pursuant to Reclamation law. The water is allocated by reclamation contracts to Project beneficiaries for uses in Texas and New Mexico. The State of Texas does not have a contract for water from the Project. The Compact does not express a “purpose and intent” to protect a certain amount of Project water for delivery to the Texas-New Mexico state line, nor any provision prohibiting New Mexico from allowing its water users to make additional depletions between Elephant Butte and the Texas-New Mexico state line. Texas’ Motion for Leave should be denied.

Attorney General King Announces Consumer Safety Settlement with Toyota

Attorney General Gary King
Attorney General Gary King

Attorney General Gary King has announced that New Mexico will share in a $29 million consumer protection settlement with Toyota over allegations the auto maker concealed safety issues related to unintended vehicle acceleration.

“This multistate settlement helps ensure the future safety of all New Mexico motorists because Toyota has agreed to ramp up its recall efforts for vehicles affected by the acceleration problem and to refrain from making safety claims in its advertising without hard proof of such claims,” said Attorney General King.

AG King says New Mexico’s share of the settlement with Toyota Motor Corporation and its related North America entities is $546,020.78.

In a complaint filed today along with the settlement agreement, the states alleged Toyota engaged in unfair and deceptive practices when it failed to timely disclose known safety defects with accelerator pedals.  During settlement negotiations, emphasis was placed on ensuring changes in the corporate culture and corporate chain of command to enhance Toyota’s responsiveness to regulatory agencies in the United States.  As a result, Toyota has agreed to significantly change the safety culture within the company’s United States operations.  Toyota will ensure that officials and officers of its United States operations have timely access to information and the authority to fully participate in all decisions affecting the safe operation of Toyota vehicles advertised and sold in the United States.  The State Attorneys General believe the agreed changes in Toyota’s corporate communications and safety decision making chain of command will allow the company to move forward in a positive manner with improved responsiveness to safety concerns.

In addition, the settlement provides that Toyota is:

  • Prohibited from reselling a vehicle it reacquired with alleged safety defects without informing the purchaser about the alleged defect(s) and certifying that the reacquired vehicle has been fixed,
  • Prohibited from misrepresenting the purpose of an inspection or repair when directing consumers to bring their vehicles to a dealer for inspection or repair, and
  • Required to exclude from the “Toyota Certified Used Vehicles” or “Lexus Certified Pre-Owned Vehicles” categories any vehicle acquired through lemon law proceedings or voluntarily repurchased by Toyota to ensure customer satisfaction.

Consumers who have questions about the settlement may contact Toyota at the toll-free numbers listed here:

Toyota – 1-800-331-4331
Lexus – 1-800-255-3987

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