Gotten a recent text message from a government agency about grants, tax refunds, pandemic relief or unemployment insurance?
Chances are it's a fake if the text asks for payments or sensitive personal information, the New York State Division of Consumer Protection said. "Text messaging scams claim relief money is waiting," the agency said, and advised people to never share personal information or pay to access government relief payments.
"Throughout this public health crisis, scammers have been hard at work preying on unsuspecting New Yorkers," Secretary of State Rossana Rosado, who oversees DCP, said in a statement this week. "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."
According to officials, after clicking on links from the text messages consumers "arrive at official looking websites designed to impersonate federal agencies" like the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration, as well as New York state agencies like the Department of Labor or the Department of Health. Some of the messages even seek information regarding pandemic contact tracing, officials said.
What the scammers really seek, however, is bank information or other personal data, like Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers and bank account logins or passwords, which they claim will help enable consumers to accept payments. A sample of an actual message claiming to be a treasury fund payment advised potential victims they'd received a direct deposit of $1,200 from the "COVID-19 Treasury Fund," officials said — noting that "further action" was required to "accept this payment into your account."
Officials warned recipients not to clink on links in "suspect texts or emails" and to call the government agency directly to confirm any communications that appear suspect.
Hang up "immediately," officials said, if you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a government agency threatening "arrest, deportation or license revocation" if you don't supply them with personal information.
The Consumer Helpline number is 800-697-1220 and someone is available to assist consumers Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m.-4:30 p.m. Consumer complaints can be filed anytime online at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection. To view consumer alerts, consumers can visit https://www.dos.ny.gov/about/newsroom.html.