View from the Assembly: Beware of scams, identity theft

By state Assemblyman Will Barclay

Unfortunately, our office often hears firsthand accounts from local residents who have been scammed. 

I wanted to let people know of common scams local residents have experienced recently and how to avoid scams and identity theft.

One scam currently affecting local residents is a lottery scam. In this scam, an email is sent announcing that the recipient has won a prize. Many times the email looks official and encourages the recipient to follow easy steps to claim his or her prize including calling a number contained in the email. 

Once the person is on the phone, the scam artist is able to collect personal information or provide instructions on how the person can obtain the so-called prize. 

There is, however, never a prize after he or she follows these “simple instructions” which almost always includes sending a check or wiring money.

The New York State Gaming Commission reminds residents that unless they are lottery subscribers, they will never be notified of winning a prize by the lottery. Winners must come forward with a winning ticket to notify the lottery. 

Also, the lottery never requires a payment of any money in order to claim a prize. There is also never a processing fee or any other suggested fee in relation to claiming a prize. 

If you doubt an email or phone call you have received, you may email the lottery at info@gaming.ny.gov or contact the New York Lottery’s Security Unit at (518) 388-3416. If you suspect a scam, you may file a complaint with the New York State Attorney General’s office by calling the consumer helpline at (800) 771-7755 or visiting the Attorney General’s website at ag.ny.gov.

  Scammers are convincing and will say things victims often want to hear to earn the person’s trust. Often elderly are targets. 

The Better Business Bureau recently warned of five other scams taking place throughout the area as well, including high pressure door-to-door tactics, job scams claiming to need fees for training, and summer concert ticket scams. These ticket scams get people by tricking the consumer into sending money, but in return, there is no ticket. 

Vacation scams are also prevalent and trick people into buying a so-called vacation for a bargain, only to find out there was never such a vacation available. 

To learn more, visit bbb.org/upstate-new-york. 

Another one our office learned about is someone who claims to be from Windows. These scammers are seeking remote access to your computer in order to obtain bank account numbers and passwords.

Identity Theft Prevalent in New York

Identity theft is particularly prevalent in New York, which has one of the highest per-capita rates of identity theft in the country. It affects about 10 million Americans each year. 

Anyone can be a victim, including young children. Identity theft occurs when personal information such as date of birth, Social Security numbers, telephone numbers, credit card and bank account numbers and passwords are accessed and used by thieves. 

The criminals can then open new accounts, apply for loans, make large purchases or access bank account balances. 

Phishing is a common way thieves obtain personal information. Through email, people are asked to validate personal information and users are directed to what appears to be a legitimate organization’s website but it is not.

Last week the Assembly passed a measure that, if signed into law by the governor, will allow a credit reporting agency to place a freeze for a minor under the age of 16 at the request of the minor’s parent or guardian. I supported this in the Assembly and it passed unanimously. 

Current law implies a parent is able to do so, but this bill expressly provides parents and guardians with this authority. In the case of identity theft with children, the theft can go undetected for years and is only discovered when the child goes to apply for a credit card or a student loan. 

It’s important we have laws in place that work to protect children. Unfortunately, in these cases, the thief is often someone the family knows.

The state Division of Consumer Protection publishes a booklet that helps residents protect themselves from ID theft which is available at dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/identity_theft/index.htm

If you think you are a victim of identity theft, you may call the three major credit bureaus at Equifax at (800) 525-6285; Experian at (888) 397-3742; and TransUnion at (800) 680-7289 to prevent someone from opening new credit accounts in your name.

 If you have any questions or comments or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, contact my office by mail at 200 N. Second St., Fulton, NY 13069, by email at barclaw@assembly.state.ny.us or by calling 598-5185.

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