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NY targeting bogus texts in vaccine scam to prevent identity theft

A legit COVID-19 vaccine card. New York State

A legit COVID-19 vaccine card. New York State officials Tuesday warned consumers to be on the lookout for texts demanding personal information and COVID-19 vaccine status. Credit: Craig Ruttle

Unsolicited text messages seeking New Yorkers' vaccination status are the focus of state efforts to prevent the theft of consumers’ personal data, officials said Tuesday.

The New York State Division of Consumer Protection and the Department of Health warned people to look out for a text phishing scheme that steals personal information.

The phishing texts impersonate the state Department of Health and tell "the recipient they are required to enter their information to validate their vaccination status," said officials from the consumer protection division in a news release. The link on the message is fraudulent, officials said.

Text messages or emails from scammers are designed to commit identity theft, officials said, adding that passwords or Social Security numbers are vulnerable to theft.

Officials urged caution when receiving information from unverified sources, and to watch out for signs of phishing such as poor grammar. No specific cases were mentioned in the release, which included two screenshot samples of phony texts.

More information on the scams is available on the state Office of Information Technology Services Phishing Awareness resources page at https://its.ny.gov/resources, or the state Division of Consumer Protection Phishing Scam Prevention Tips page at https://dos.ny.gov/identity-theft-prevention-and-mitigation-program.

The consumer protection division previously warned consumers in July to be on the lookout for a text message phishing scheme used to update personal information from a current driver's license.

Also in July, then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation expanding the definition of telemarketing to include text messages in an attempt to shield unsuspecting cellphone users from phishing scams and unwanted robotexts, officials said. Previously, texts had been exempted.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020 warned people about cybercriminals pretending to be from the CDC and asking individuals to click on a link for tips to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.

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