The COVID 19 pandemic and the surrounding uncertainty has led to an increase in scams, resulting in a record number of consumer fraud complaints in 2020. According to NYS Attorney General Letitia James, “Consumers who have helped identify and report issues to our office have been invaluable partners in our efforts to stop deceptive scams and will continue to be vital partners going forward”.
One of the scams that has been most emergent is the “Grandparent Scam”, targeting senior citizens with calls from fraudsters posing as a grandchild of the victim and asking for money. Many grandparents have not seen their grandchildren for months, due to COVID and are hence more vulnerable. Do not be deceived as scammers create a sense of urgency to prey on victim’s emotions; verify any supposed emergency – NEVER send money before verifying that it is a legitimate emergency; be SUSPISICOUS of anyone who calls unexpectedly asking for money to be sent and NEVER send cash through the mail. Do NOT transfer money or purchase pre-paid debit or gift cards.
If you have received a call from a supposed family member, ask a question that only that relative would know the answer to, for example “what was the name of your first pet”?
During these unprecedented times, data shows an increase in text message scams, known as “smishing”. Scammers have turned to text message scams, as the average person has become savvy enough to spot an e-mail scam. The tactics of a text message scam are virtually identical to those used in a standard e-mail phishing scam. The scammer sends a text message with a link to potential victims. The message normally invites the potential victim to verify account details, make a payment, or claim a prize. Text messages are short, which leaves little room for obvious spelling or grammar mistakes.
Here are six things to keep in mind the next time you receive an unsolicited text message that invites you to click a link.
- Is the message relevant to you? For example they may say you’ve won something, but you did not enter any sort of competition. You might be notified that you have a package to pick up, but are you expecting something? Always remember the golden rule: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!
- Do NOT tap links in suspicious messages – most text message scams include a link, and usually the URL doesn’t match with the company name. Some of these scams are designed to spread malware, and sometimes require a tap/click on a link.
- Do NOT fall for a convincing website. Websites may appear identical to the companies the scammer is trying to imitate, one must be extremely careful not to open links.
- Pay attention to grammar – a large number of smishing attempts originate in other countries, as a result scammers make spelling or grammar errors that should be easily identified.
- Do NOT trust a personalized message – personalization can lead some to believe a message is genuine, data breaches are common, allowing scammers to piece together information that make them appear more legitimate.
- Suspect it’s real? – contact the company directly –one of the most common smishing attempts is the postage scam. The message appears to be from a postal service informing you that you have additional shipping costs on a package or verify your address. Mail handlers do not attempt to collect overdue shipping costs via text messaging. If a party is asking for payment or a donation in gift cards, be wary and contact the company or organization directly.
Be careful and be skeptical of any text messages you receive that aren’t from friends or acquaintances.
During these times it is vital we stay vigilant against such scams. If you feel you have been the victim of a scam file a complaint by completing and submitting an online complaint form with the Consumer Frauds and Protection Bureau (https://ag.ny.gov/consumer-frauds/Filing-a-Consumer-Complaint) or by calling (800) 771-7755.
Due to her extensive experience as a former nurse and as a member of the small business community, Legislator Kennedy has strived to put the needs and welfare of her community first, especially the most vulnerable. Legislator Leslie Kennedy’s office is here to assist at 631-854-3735 and works to help protect the citizens of Suffolk County.
Suffolk County Legislator Leslie Kennedy represents the 12th Legislative District, encompassing Smithtown, Nesconset, Hauppauge, the Village of the Branch, Lake Grove, parts of Commack, Ronkonkoma, Lake Ronkonkoma and Centereach. Legislator Kennedy was born and raised on Long Island, is a former nurse and small business manager, and has dedicated her life toward the betterment of our community. She currently serves on the following committees: Environment, Parks & Agriculture; Veterans & Consumer Affairs; Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Services & Preparedness; Government, Operations, Personnel, Information Technology & Diversity; Education & Labor; Public Safety; Ways & Means; and Health (Vice Chair).