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For Immediate Release:
December 3, 2020
Contact: 518-486-9844
press@dos.ny.gov
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CONSUMER ALERT: NYS DIVISION OF CONSUMER PROTECTION ALERTS CONSUMERS TO TEXT MESSAGING SCAMMERS IMPERSONATING STATE AND FEDERAL AGENCIES

Text Messaging Scams Claim Relief Money is Waiting

Consumers Stay Vigilant: Do Not Share Personal Information and Never Pay to Access Government Relief Payments

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) is today alerting New Yorkers to new text messaging scams seeking payments and sensitive personal information by offering fake grants, tax refunds, pandemic relief, and unemployment insurance payments.

“Throughout this public health crisis, scammers have been hard at work preying on unsuspecting New Yorkers,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees the Division of Consumer Protection. “This latest batch of scams prey on New Yorkers seeking pandemic relief by spoofing official government agencies. I urge all New Yorkers to be extra diligent and follow simple steps to keep your money and personal information safe.”

New York State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon said, “It is deplorable that these scammers are misrepresenting themselves during a pandemic to prey upon New Yorkers who need assistance in a time of crisis. New Yorkers must be more vigilant than ever in protecting their personal information and should never share their Social Security number or other personal identifiers over social media channels or via text messaging. Block & report these fraudulent accounts as soon as possible.”

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker said, “While everyone is doing their best to stay informed throughout the pandemic response, unfortunately there are those who will seek to prey upon people during their most vulnerable time. As always, we must make it a habit to consider and verify the source of unsolicited promotions and monetary offers and keep personal information, including health information, protected.”

Scammers preying on consumers’ interest in pandemic relief programs are impersonating state and federal government agencies by enticing consumers to click on website links containing official-sounding text such as “pandemic stimulus relief,” “Treasury Department,” and “government payment.”  Consumers may also receive a phone call claiming they are a victim of identity theft and then receive the alarming text message, further confirming the “problem.”

After clicking the links from the text messages, consumers arrive at official looking websites designed to impersonate federal agencies such as the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration and New York State agencies, including the Department of Labor regarding unemployment payments or the Department of Health regarding contact tracing.  These sites solicit bank information and other sensitive personal details such as social security numbers, driver’s license numbers and bank account logins/passwords to enable the consumers to “accept payment.”

Sample of actual text messages:

Treasury Fund Payment: “You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 Treasury Fund. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account.”

COVID Relief Grant: "The IRS has deemed you eligible for the current COVID relief grant sponsored by the Treasury Clearinghouse, you stand a chance of getting a minimum of $100000 for being a regular tax payer, agent Davies Gran has been assigned.  Click the link below"

Unemployment Claim: “You have pending claim of $1,200 from covid-19 TREAS 310 tax ref.  Further action is required to disburse funds. Click here to confirm payment method:"

Stimulus Help: "From IRS-GO: You are eligible - Register for COVID-19 Stimulus Help MSG#: 123455668"

Collaborating with New York State’s Division of Consumer Protection and several federal government agencies, telecommunications carriers have blocked thousands of these fake text messages using sophisticated algorithms to look for keywords, malicious activity, and other trends.  As the pandemic continues and the holidays approach, consumers should be mindful of increasing scam activity.

To prevent falling victim to these types of scams, please take note of the following tips:

Additional information related to New York State agencies:

Additional information related to federal agencies:

If you encounter a marketplace problem or are concerned about a scam, you are encouraged to call or file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the State’s consumers. The Consumer Helpline, 800-697-1220, is available to assist consumers Monday through Friday, 8:30am-4:30pm. Consumer complaints can be filed anytime online at the Division website, www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. To view consumer alerts, consumers can visit https://www.dos.ny.gov/about/newsroom.html. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

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