BEWARE OF SCAMS 3 New Scams have been identified. Here is some information to help you avoid being a victim
Homeowner Repair Grants
Earlier this week our office was notified by the Montgomery County Office for the Aging that they have been getting a large number of NY Connects calls from older adults who had received a postcard mailing addressed to “resident” from the National Residential Improvement Association offering to help them get a grant to repair their home. The postcard looks official, but it is not a government program, and the company currently does not have a valid business license. National Residential Improvement Association has been reported to the Better Business Bureau multiple times since 2008. This is a scam.
Government grant scams are on the rise. With the recently passed federal stimulus bill, scammers are taking advantage of homeowners of all ages by making bogus offers to secure generous grants for home repairs.
What to look out for:
- Unsolicited phone calls or emails from someone claiming to be an official from the Federal Grants Administration (which does not exist), or a nonprofit organization like the National Residential Improvement Association offering grants or funding for repairs.
- Social media messages or posts from people excited to share the thousands of dollars they claim to have received from an organization that secures grants for homeowners.
- Callers who ask you to pay a fee in order to receive a grant. Federal grants never charge for grant applications.
- Magazine or newspaper ads that offer “free grants.”
- Calls or emails that claim you’re eligible for a personal grant that does not restrict how you spend the money.
- Do not answer your telephone if you do not recognize the caller or number.
- Never share personal information over the telephone, like your Medicare number, Social Security number or banking information.
- Never pay a fee to a company that says it will help you get a grant.
- Block or unfriend anyone who offers unsolicited grant information on social media. Even if you are “friends” with that person – they may have been hacked.
- Only use local contractors with validated references to do work in your home.
If you have been a victim of such a scam:
- Report it to the New York State Attorney General’s Office: 800-771-7755
- Report to the AARP Fraud Watch Network: 877-908-3360
- Report the scammer to the Better Business Bureau: https://www.bbb.org/consumer-complaints/file-a-complaint/get-started
Corona Virus Scam
Police are warning cell phone users of a new text message scam during the coronavirus pandemic. The Thomaston Police Department in Maine posted on Facebook a photo of the alert being sent to people in a text message.
The message was sent to someone in Maine from an Indiana area code telling them they need to self-isolate because they came in contact with someone who tested positive or has shown symptoms for coronavirus.
The alert also tells you to get tested.
“If you receive a text message like the one pictured, DO NOT click the link!” police wrote on Facebook. “It is not a message from any official agency. It is however a gateway for bad actors to find their way into your world.”
Police said it could be a phishing scam to get your personal information.
“The virus is not the only invisible enemy,” police said. “Be vigilant against all threats!”
The BBB said scammers have also been targeting seniors with text messages posing as the U.S. Department of Health, and telling them they need to take a mandatory online COVID-19 test in order to receive the recently approved government stimulus payment.
Stimulus Check Scam
Ugh. The ink is barely dry on the “Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act” or the “CARES Act” – and scammers are already coming up with schemes to defraud taxpayers. Specifically, identity thieves are using confusion over the stimulus checks to convince potential victims to turn over personally-identifying information.
The Better Business Bureau is already reporting that government imposters are calling about COVID-19 relief. As part of the scam, callers suggest that you might qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant and that it’s necessary to first verify your identity and process your request. Variations on the scheme involve contacts through text messages, social media posts, and messages.
Other twists on the scam suggest that you can get more money from the government – or get your stimulus check faster – if you share personal details and pay a small “processing fee.” Don’t take the bait. Stimulus checks are free money from the government. You don’t need to spend money to receive your check. And there are no short-cuts – even for a fee.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will deposit your check into the direct deposit account you previously provided on your tax return (or, in the alternative, send you a paper check). The IRS will not call and ask you to verify your payment details. Do not give out your bank account, debit account, or PayPal account information – even if someone claims it’s necessary to get your stimulus check. It’s a scam.
If you receive a call, don’t engage with scammers or thieves, even if you want to tell them that you know it’s a scam, or you think that you can beat them. Just hang up. If you receive texts or emails claiming that you can get your money faster by sending personal information or clicking on links, delete them. Don’t click on any links in those emails.