February 7, 2022 – The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the amount of scams that we are all experiencing. The most vulnerable population is being hit the hardest – our seniors.
One of the many scams that are affecting our over 55 population involves prepaid gift cards. These Scammers are calling, texting or emailing asking the victims to purchase specific gift cards, scratch the security code off the back and sending them the information. These scammers could be claiming it is to pay for a PayPal debt that is outstanding, an unpaid phone or internet bill and many other variations of needing to pay a debt. They almost always give you a very short deadline to forward them the “payment” so you act fast and don’t have time to inform others on this interaction.
Here are 5 things to keep in mind the next time you receive an unsolicited text, call or email that is demanding payment for unpaid bills:
- Is the message relevant to you? For example they may say you owe money for an outstanding bill. Go back into your records and verify that you paid this bill or if you recently purchased something using this card.
- Do NOT tap links that are attached to these messages – most text message scams include a link, and usually the URL doesn’t match with the company name.
- Pay attention to grammatical – a large number of scams originate in other countries, as a result scammers make spelling or grammar errors that should be easily identified.
- Do NOT trust personalized messages – 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 is real? – contact the company directly. Make sure you ask them to verify if there is an outstanding balance and the last time you made a payment. Alert them that you were contacted by an individual to send payment to them. They will be able to advise you if this individual is in fact with this company.
Be careful and be skeptical of any text messages, phone calls or emails 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 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; Budget & Finance (Vice Chair); Fire, Rescue and Emergency Medical Services & Preparedness; Education & Labor; Public Safety; Ways & Means (Vice Chair); and Health (Chair).