For Immediate Release:
Thursday, March 4, 2021
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection Issues Safety Tips for National Consumer Protection Week
NEW YORK, NY
– As part of National Consumer Protection Week, Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) Commissioner Lorelei Salas today issued five tips, which are available in multiple languages
, to protect consumers’ identity and money during COVID-19.
“Scammers are always finding new ways to exploit people, and we’ve seen that throughout the entire pandemic,” said DCWP Commissioner Lorelei Salas. “From fake testing and personal protective equipment scams to now a rise of vaccine scams, it’s important to stay alert and be on the lookout for certain warning signs that are often clear indications of a scam. Read our tips to learn what type of scams are out there, how to avoid them, and where to report them.”
- Beware of vaccine scams.You will never be asked to put a deposit down or provide credit card information to make a vaccination appointment. If you are offered early access to the vaccine in exchange for money, that is a scam—there is no early access. The vaccine is being distributed in phases to groups of people at increased risk of COVID-19 exposure, such as older adults, essential workers, those with underlying conditions, and more. Visit vaccinefinder.nyc.gov for vaccine eligibility and vaccination sites. Visit ag.ny.gov/complaint-forms to report any incidence of vaccine fraud or abuse to the New York State Attorney General. Contact the New York State Department of Health if you suspect fraud in the vaccine distribution process: email STOPVAXFRAUD@health.ny.gov or call toll-free 833-VAX-SCAM (833-829-7226).
- Avoid overcharges.Price gouging is illegal for any item or service needed to limit the spread of COVID-19. File a complaint with DCWP if you believe a store excessively increased the price of an item: online at on.nyc.gov/overcharge or call 311 and say “overcharge.” Visit nyc.gov/dcwp for more information about price gouging.
- Find a trusted tax preparerWhile most tax preparers provide honest and high-quality service, some may mislead you into taking credits or deductions you aren’t entitled to claim—this is illegal. In addition, by promising a “bigger” and “faster” refund, they will likely increase their fees, and you will end up losing your hard-earned refund. Always ask the preparer for a Consumer Bill of Rights Regarding Tax Preparers and read it thoroughly before having your taxes prepared. Eligible New Yorkers can use NYC Free Tax Prep for trusted, professional virtual and in-person filing services. Visit nyc.gov/TaxPrep to learn all the way you can file for free.
- Spot government imposters. Any call, email, or text message from someone claiming to be a government official and is demanding money or personal information is likely a scam. Resist the pressure to act quickly. If you are ever unsure about a call or email, visit the official agency website or call the official agency number to verify the legitimacy of it. Visit ReportFraud.ftc.gov to report a suspected scam.
- Scammer calls pretending to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and demands payment or personal information, claiming it’s required so that you can receive your Economic Impact Payment (stimulus payment) faster. As of February 16, 2021, all first and second stimulus payments have been issued by the IRS. If you didn’t receive payment, you may be eligible for the Recovery Rebate Credit. If you earned $68,000 or less in 2020, use NYC Free Tax Prep services to file your taxes for free and claim the Recovery Rebate Credit to get any missed or underpaid stimulus payments. Visit nyc.gov/TaxPrep to learn all the way you can file for free.
- Scammer pretends to be a law enforcement officer or NYPD representative and tells you that a family member has been arrested and that you need to pay bail money with gift cards.
Scammer pretends to be calling from the New York State Department of Labor (NYSDOL) to verify personal information and requires payment to “process your unemployment claim.”
- Protect your identity. Avoid giving personal information over the phone, by email, text, or on social media sites, and never click on unfamiliar links. Create strong, personal passwords and only download software and apps from trusted sources. Visit identitytheft.gov to learn how to protect your information. File a complaint at ftc.gov/idtheft if you think you are a victim of identity theft. You must act quickly. Visit nyc.gov/TalkMoney to learn about free, one-on-one, professional financial counseling. Work with an NYC Financial Empowerment Center counselor to help manage your money.
NYC Department of Consumer and Worker Protection (DCWP) protects and enhances the daily economic lives of New Yorkers to create thriving communities. DCWP licenses more than 59,000 businesses in more than 50 industries and enforces key consumer protection, licensing, and workplace laws that apply to countless more. By supporting businesses through equitable enforcement and access to resources and, by helping to resolve complaints, DCWP protects the marketplace from predatory practices and strives to create a culture of compliance. Through its community outreach and the work of its offices of Financial Empowerment and Labor Policy & Standards, DCWP empowers consumers and working families by providing the tools and resources they need to be educated consumers and to achieve financial health and work-life balance. DCWP also conducts research and advocates for public policy that furthers its work to support New York City’s communities. For more information about DCWP and its work, call 311 or visit DCWP at nyc.gov/dcwp or on its social media sites, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.
Abigail Lootens | Jade Acosta
Department of Consumer and Worker Protection