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Division of Consumer Protection, Office for New Americans alert consumers to online English learning & phone scams

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Tue, Oct 27th 2020 07:20 pm

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 one receives emails, calls or text like this, they should report it to the 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.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection and Office for New Americans said, “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:

√ Review the website link. Look for a clear URL that matches the business you are engaging. A recent site example sent by a consumer: https://www.inglessinbarreras.info/orig-informes-california-isb-d1-tablet-lx20.html links to a site that appears to be for “Ingles Sin Barreras.” However, that site is fraudulent and the real company’s courses are instead available at the link: https://hablemosingles.com.

√ Locate a company address. Check the address on a mapping app to see if it exists – and what is located around it.

√ Confirm what classes are offered. Many companies do not post their prices, but they should at least show what types of courses are available and potential class schedules. Some sites also show faculty names. Research those individuals to see if they exist and teach courses for that company.

√ Check for the website’s terms and conditions, copyright information and other footer items. Scam companies that setup sites quickly will simply copy and paste text, but they rarely take time to link to real terms and conditions and other legal references found at the bottom of most legitimate websites. A recent example sent by a consumer had basic information available in the site, but the footer area was blank and contained no additional information or company links.

√ Do some research. Search the product and company name online with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam” to see what others are saying.

√ Refrain from sending any personal information. Address and telephone information can be used to contact you for other reasons. Consider only using sites that require an email address to find out more about language courses. If you do not have email available, use sites that provide a phone number to call to find out more about course options. Remember, when talking with an agent on the phone, the number may still be a scam, so be cautious about giving any additional personal information on the phone. Hang up if you suspect a scammer!

√ File a complaint. If you suspect a site might be fraudulent, do not enter your information. If you encounter this or any other scam, you are encouraged to file a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection.

Phone Scams Tips:

√ Block the number making scam calls. If you accidentally entered your information on a site, you can attempt to block the number making the calls. Scammers may attempt to call from different numbers in rapid succession, so you may need to block a few numbers as they attempt to call you from different ones.

√ Don’t respond to calls or texts, and don’t pay – even in the face of threats. Scammers will often try to pressure and intimidate you to get your money or information.

√ Report these scams to your local police department.

√ Set your social media accounts to private. This can keep scammers from getting personal details or grabbing pictures you don’t want shared.

√ File a complaint with the Division of Consumer Protection.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower New York consumers. The division’s consumer helpline (800-697-1220) is available from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays. Consumer complaints can be filed anytime online at the division website at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

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 between 9 a.m. and 8 p.m. weekdays. All calls are confidential. Assistance is available in more than 200 languages. For more information, visit https://www.newamericans.ny.gov/ or follow ONA on Twitter at @NYSNewAmericans or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/NYSNewAmericans.

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