New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued an urgent consumer alert following a rash of reports of a new scam that is making the rounds, targeting New Yorkers.
Schneiderman issued the alert on Thursday afternoon, cautioning consumers that there have been reports of a new scam involving opportunistic fraudsters impersonating the Chinese Consulate, demanding payment for a package or to prevent punishment from the office.
According to Schneiderman, his office recently received a report that New York consumers were receiving calls from someone falsely claiming to be a representative from a nearby consulate office. Some have reported receiving calls or messages instructing them to pick up a package, while others were threatened with discipline from the Chinese Consulate.
In all cases, Schneiderman said that consumers 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. In order to resolve the matter, the scammers asked consumers for their bank or credit card information or demanded that they make a bank transfer to the consulate.
Schneiderman said that in several cases, the scammers would leave messages with a return number that rerouted to an emergency call center in Polk County, Arkansas. In the past day, the center received more than 500 calls from New Yorkers, none of whom paid the fraudsters any money.
According to the FTC, the scammers appear to be calling from outside of the U.S. and targeting people with Chinese last names, including recent immigrants. The New York Police Department reports that since December 2017, 21 Chinese immigrants have been victimized and lost a total of $2.5 million.
“It’s unconscionable that someone would prey on New Yorkers — including vulnerable recent immigrants — to try to turn a profit,” Schneiderman said. “As these scammers continue to target people across the state, I’m urging all New Yorkers to be on high alert and immediately contact the FTC if they receive such a call”
To help New Yorkers avoid becoming the victim of a scam, Schneiderman offered a series of tips:
- Never give out personal information to a stranger on the phone.
- Never wire money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or any other wire service to a stranger.
- Never purchase gift or money cards for the purpose of providing the gift card numbers to someone else.
- Immediately contact authorities to report potential scams.
Anyone who receives a call from scammers has been asked to contact the Federal Trade Commission by calling 1-877-FTC-HELP.
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