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Consumer alert: Division of Consumer Protection urges New Yorkers to be aware of COVID-19 scams tied to federal economic impact payments

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Wed, Jan 6th 2021 07:50 pm

Scammers using a variety of methods tied to COVID-19 economic impact payments to target consumers 

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) is alerting consumers about scammers taking advantage of COVID-19 economic stimulus payments. With another round of economic stimulus payments approved by Congress, scammers will be sending phishing emails, texts and phone calls and using social media to try to steal economic impact payments and one’s personal information. Consumers are reminded it’s important to stay vigilant and aware of unsolicited communications asking for personal or private information.

“Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have been hard at work trying to steal money from unsuspecting New Yorkers,” Secretary of State Rossana Rosado said. “With this latest round of stimulus funding on its way, I urge all New Yorkers to be extra diligent and follow simple steps to keep your money and personal identity safe.”

What You Need to Know about Economic Impact Payments

On Dec. 27, 2020, the federal government passed a pandemic relief package. An important component of individual relief, economic impact payments, will be issued to New Yorkers from the IRS.

One doesn’t need to take any action to automatically receive a stimulus payment if they:

•Filed a 2018 or 2019 tax return and are eligible; or

•Received one of these benefits (unless claiming a qualifying child under age 17):

√ Social Security retirement benefits and survivor benefits

√ Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) benefits and survivor benefits

√ Supplemental Security Income (SSI) benefits

√ Railroad Retirement and survivor benefits

√ Veterans Administration compensation (disability, death benefits etc.) or retirement benefits 

While most people will receive their payment automatically, if one otherwise has not filed taxes recently, they may need to submit a simple federal tax return to get a check. For more information on the economic impact payments, New Yorkers should visit the New York State Department of Taxation and Finance at Economic Impact Payment information: What you need to know or the IRS at economic impact payments

Below are tips to help keep economic impact payment and personal information safe from scammers:

Rely on trusted sites for information. Visit legitimate, government websites for up-to-date, fact-based information about COVID-19. Visit the IRS website directly for the latest information on the economic impact payments. Remember, the government will never call to ask for a Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number.

Delete emails asking for personal information to receive an economic stimulus check. Government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails seeking private information in order to send money.

Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments. See using caution with email attachments and avoiding social engineering and phishing scams for more information.

Don’t provide personal or banking information. Scammers may ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up one’s economic impact payment.

Do not agree to sign over an economic impact payment check. Scammers may ask a person to sign over their stimulus payment check to them.

Be wary of bogus checks. Scammers may mail someone a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Do not cash unsolicited checks. Scammers use this tactic to get bank account information, and a scam victim will incur fees when the check is found to be insufficient.

Be aware scammers are also able to replicate a government agency’s name and phone number on caller ID. It’s important to remember the IRS will never ask for your personal information or threaten someone’s benefits by phone call, email, text or social media.

Hang up on illegal robocallers. If someone receives a call about economic impact payment scams, hang up. Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let someone speak to a live operator or remove them from a call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.

Notify the IRS if contacted by a potential scammer. If someone receives an unsolicited email, text or social media attempt that appears to be from the IRS or an organization associated with the IRS, like the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, notify the IRS at [email protected].

Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. Review the Federal Trade Commission’s page on charity scams for more information.

Review CISA Insights on Risk Management for COVID-19 for more information.

With assistance from ITS, the Department of Health continues to maintain up-to-date “Stay Cyber Safe” tips and active warnings at https://coronavirus.health.ny.gov/stay-cyber-safe.

 New York State Commissioner of Taxation and Finance Michael Schmidt said, “We all must remain especially vigilant against scam artists trying to steal this latest round of stimulus funding from New Yorkers. We’re sharing valuable information so you can learn how to spot red flags and where to find reliable information so you won’t be caught off guard by con artists.”

 New York State Office of Information Technology Services Chief Information Officer Angelo “Tony” Riddick said, “New Yorkers are being challenged like never before by a global pandemic, and to make matters worse, we’ve seen unscrupulous individuals use technology in a desperate and dishonest attempt to scam them out of their own money. Fortunately, New Yorkers can protect themselves against these COVID-related scams if they are armed with the right information. Always be wary of unsolicited phone calls, texts, emails, links or attachments, even if the sender appears to be known. And, never send your personal information via email or text.”

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the state’s consumers. For more consumer protection information, call the DCP helpline at 800-697-1220, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. weekdays or visit the DCP website at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. The DCP can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook at www.facebook.com/nysconsumer.

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