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For Immediate Release:
October 27, 2020
Contact: 212-417-5801
Follow us on Twitter @NYSDOS

The Division of Consumer Protection and Office for New Americans Alert Consumers to Online English Learning Scams and Phone Scams

Companies Claim They Will Teach You English, But Instead Gather Information and Try to Threaten Language Learners with Deportation if they are not Paid

Phone Scammers Extorting Parents & Immigrants by Making Threats to Harm Children or Deportation if they are not Paid

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection and Office for New Americans are alerting consumers about online English learning and phone scams targeting students, parents and immigrants. These scams are based on threats requiring the end consumer to pay money immediately or face repercussions by authorities.

Online scammers claiming to teach English online are requiring people to enter personal information – name, phone number, address – into a database where it is then used to harass and intimidate people into paying money to avoid consequences with the authorities. Phone scammers are extorting parents by texting them a picture of their child -- likely obtained from the internet or social media accounts -- with a threating message stating they intend to kill the family if they fail to pay the scammers. They are also targeting immigrants by pretending to be from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and then threatening to revoke an individual’s immigration status or face police arrest and deportation, unless payment is made immediately. If you receive any emails, calls or text like this, you should report it to your local police or the proper authorities right away.

“New York State prides itself on assisting all New Yorkers,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection and the Office for New Americans. “People who prey on our vulnerable populations of non-English speakers and immigrants are breaking the law and it will not be tolerated. Consumers should be vigilant to protect themselves and their families.”

Free and easy to maneuver English language lessons are available Statewide through the Office for New Americans’ Cell-Ed remote learning program, which can be accessed 24/7 by calling the New American’s multilingual Hotline at 1-800-566-7636. Cell-Ed is a secure program, accessible on multiple platforms such as call-in, Whatsapp, tablet and computer.

Many sites use names similar to popular English language learning sites. It can be difficult to discern legitimate sites offering real courses from those looking to gather people’s information to scam them. To avoid falling victim to these scams, consumers should follow the tips below:

 Online Scams Tips:

Phone Scams Tips:

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower New York State consumers. The Division’s Consumer Helpline, 800-697-1220, is available Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm. Consumer complaints can be filed anytime online at the Division website at The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at

The New York State Office for New Americans, founded in late 2012, is the nation’s first statutorily created immigrant services office. ONA has Opportunity Centers across the State that are hosted in community-based organizations that deliver a variety of services and support, including legal services, to New York’s new American communities. Any immigrant that needs free legal assistance or immigration advise is urged to call the New Americans Hotline at 1-800-566-7636 9:00am to 8:00pm, Monday through Friday. All calls are confidential. Assistance is available in over 200 languages. For more information, visit or follow ONA on Twitter at @NYSNewAmericans or Facebook at