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COVID-19: Here Are Do's, Don'ts To Avoid Virus-Related Scams, Westchester DA Says

Officials are warning about new contact tracer scams during the COVID-19 outbreak.
Officials are warning about new contact tracer scams during the COVID-19 outbreak. Photo Credit: FTC

Officials in Westchester are warning residents to protect themselves and be wary of schemers looking to take advantage of the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Westchester County District Attorney Anthony Scarpino, Jr., issued a warning for area residents this week following an uptick in scams related to the COVID-19 outbreak over the past few months.

“As this crisis continues, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies are seeing more scams related to federal coronavirus stimulus payments as well as bogus COVID-19-related products and treatments for sale, charities, and fraudulent investment and job opportunities,” Scarpino said.

Scarpino noted that “while it’s true you could get a call from a health department representative or a confirmation text message, you will never be asked to click on a link in a text message” (see above).

Westchester residents have been warned to be suspicious of anyone who makes contact requesting money or personal identifying information such as Social Security or credit card numbers.

According to Scarpino, recently, work-from-home frauds have become more frequent during this crisis with scammers offering jobs if you pay them upfront. That’s never legitimate.

The do's and don'ts, according to Scarpino's office: 

  • Don’t believe a person claiming to be a Census employee asking for money or your Social Security number. Real Census representatives don’t do that;
  • Don’t fall for fake medical companies re: COVID-19 tests, treatments or drugs and requesting personal identifying information to “check for eligibility” or ask for payment;
  • Don’t give money to anyone soliciting donations relating to COVID-19 assistance, unless you know it’s a trusted charity.;
  • Don’t speak to anyone who claims to be a representative from national health organizations, such as the CDC or WHO offering to help obtain COVID-19 stimulus funds;
  • Don’t click on links or communication which appear to direct you to COVID-19 news, health-related or other websites you are not familiar with. They may contain malware to take over your computer or plant a virus;
  • Don’t assume the person on the phone is who they say they are. Ask for a phone number and suggest you will call them back;
  • Don’t take the bait. Clicking on a text link re: contact tracing will download bad software onto your device, giving scammers access to your personal and financial information. Ignore and delete these scam messages;
  • Don’t pay anyone who says they can get you a job–not money or in gift cards;
  • Do look carefully at email addresses. While a subject line may say the email is from a federal agency, a bank, or a charity, the email address may give it away. Criminals will sometimes change just one letter in an email address to make it look like one you trust;
  • Do use call-blocking technology on your phone;
  • Do back up your digital devices, so if you do get hacked you have a recent copy;
  • Do keep your computer anti-virus software up to date;
  • Do! Only refer to trusted sources of information. For medical, trust your doctor, cdc.gov and the Westchester County Health.

"Scammers wake up every day trying to find new ways to take advantage of the unsuspecting. This is their work. Our work is to keep you safe. Don’t fall victim to anyone trying to get money or information from you. You will never receive calls or emails from the IRS, the Census Bureau, or other federal agencies asking for your Social Security or credit card information.”

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