Opportunistic fraudsters have been taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic recently, prompting Attorney General Letitia James to issue a warning to New Yorkers.
James said that New Yorkers should remain vigilant about scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic, specifically vaccine and stimulus check schemes that have become more prevalent as the country combats the spread of the virus.
“As more New Yorkers become eligible for the vaccine that will help prevent the spread of the disease and a new round of stimulus payments are sent out to combat the economic fallout of the pandemic, scammers are seeking to take advantage of innocent New Yorkers by making fraudulent promises,” James cautioned.
According to James, fraudsters have been posing as the IRS and other federal agencies in an effort to access consumers’ personal information by promising access to additional stimulus payments, the ability to skip lines for vaccines and provide other needed services.
None of those services can be provided by scammers or federal agencies.
“Scammers are out there, and they are continuing to find a slew of new and shameful tactics to exploit this pandemic,” James said. “These cyberattacks are just the latest example of unscrupulous individuals capitalizing on health and economic suffering, and it is crucial that New Yorkers remain vigilant to ensure they do not fall victim to these illegal activities."
There have been recent reports of scammers posing as the “IRS Rescue Plan Dept” and attempting to steal people’s personal and financial information through malicious messages, known as phishing emails.
In some instances, the fraudulent emails also contained the IRS logo to establish credibility, and had official-sounding subject likes such as “IRS Rescue Plan Act,” the “Joe Biden Rescue Plan Act,” "IRS Rescue Plan Form,” and “President’s Rescue Act.”
James said that to avoid becoming the latest victim of a scam, New Yorkers should:
- Not be fooled by familiar logos and branding. It’s easy for attackers to design emails that look safe and legitimate at first glance. If someone claims to be from the government with a check or a vaccine, it may be a phishing scam that is illegally trying to obtain a consumer’s bank account or other personal information.
- Look for misspellings and poor grammar. While not always present, emails that contain multiple spelling and grammatical mistakes offer a clear indication that the email is malicious.
- Never open attachments or click links from those claiming to be from the government unless you have specifically signed up for a notification or an email. Clicking on buttons, such as “Apply Now,” or downloading attachments may enable scammers to download malicious software onto computers that will steal consumers’ personal information, including email addresses, passwords, and other vitally important, yet confidential information. If a consumer is unsure about a message, they should delete it right away.
- Verify the legitimacy of any unsolicited/unexpected email before interacting with it, especially if the IRS or COVID-19 is mentioned in any way. Consumers need to proactively sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. If a consumer is eligible for a stimulus payment, they will receive a payment directly from the IRS.
“Promises to skip the vaccine line or receive additional stimulus payments are lies, plain and simple,” James added. “New Yorkers need to remain alert. I encourage all New Yorkers to follows these safety tips and report suspected scams to my office.
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