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Phone scam targets people who speak Chinese, Nassau officials say

"These phone scams are more than just tedious; for many -- especially our more vulnerable residents -- they can be catastrophic," said Nassau County Executive Laura Curran. Credit: Howard Schnapp

In a season of phone scams, add yet another to the list — this one targeting people who speak Chinese, officials said.

In this scam, fraudsters impersonate a representative from the Chinese Consulate to demand payment in exchange for a package, or to prevent punishment from the consulate office, Nassau County Executive Laura Curran said Tuesday. 

The scammers appear to be calling from outside the United States and target people with Chinese last names, including recent immigrants, officials said.

Curran said there had been continued reports of these scam calls targeting residents throughout Nassau. Residents who receive such calls should contact the Federal Trade Commission at 877-FTC-HELP.

“These phone scams are more than just tedious; for many — especially our more vulnerable residents — they can be catastrophic,” Curran said. 

Last year, the state attorney general’s office received a report that New York consumers were receiving calls from someone falsely claiming to be a representative from a nearby consulate office.

Some consumers reported receiving calls or messages instructing them to pick up a package, while others received threats urging them to provide information to avoid being in trouble with the Chinese Consulate.

Several consumers were led to believe that if they did not offer up information or pay a fine they would suffer negative consequences, including arrest upon traveling to China. 

“Stealing from innocent New Yorkers is both illegal and immoral,” Attorney General Letitia James said. “We have seen too many scammers take advantage of vulnerable communities by inciting fear and confusion in an attempt to line their own pockets."

The Chinese Embassy and consulates-general in the United States said in a statement that their offices would not ask people to answer inquiries from the police department by way of phone calls. The embassy also would not ask for bank account information.

"All of these phone calls have been proved to be a scam trap," the statement said. "Stay alert of scam trap and ignore the call."

Authorities across Long Island have issued numerous warnings in recent months about phone fraudsters, email scammers and other con artists who try to swindle residents.

Southampton Town police arrested a Brooklyn man last week for allegedly scamming senior citizens by impersonating a police officer over the phone and telling people they needed to pay thousands of dollars to bail out a jailed relative.

Curran and Police Commissioner Patrick Ryder have kicked off a series of public forums intended to educate seniors on how to protect themselves from these rip-off artists.

In another case, Nassau detectives say they are seeking someone who scammed a 92-year-old Massapequa resident out of nearly $130,000 by convincing him on three occasions this month that money had been mistakenly deposited into his account and needed to be returned.

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