(PIX11) — New Yorkers are known for being street savvy, but there’s always a chance of falling victim to one of many scams floating around the city.
As part of National Consumer Protection Week, the Department of Consumer Affairs (DCA) announced 10 scams that New Yorkers should beware of. From phone scams to fake job offers and bogus kidnappings, the DCA received 21,000 consumer complaints last year.
“We are in the business of protecting consumers 365 days a year and encourage New Yorkers to come to us year-round,” said DCA Commissioner Julie Menin. “Scams are ever-evolving as criminals prey and take advantage of consumers so remember the age-old adage—if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
1. Employment Agency Scams: Does a job offer sound too good to be true? It may be. DCA says many employment agencies take advantage of job seekers and charge fees for jobs that may not even exist. To avoid being caught in a scam, only apply for jobs through licensed employment agencies and file complaints with 311 if you think you’re becoming the victim of a scam.
2. Towing Scams: While your car could be towed if you park in a private lot then leave the area, some tow companies will also try and tow your car if you don’t leave or just around the corner so you will still have to pay cash to get it back. If a car is about to be towed from the lot, the drop fee for unhooking a car is $62.50. The fee is $125 for the towing and three days of storage. Another good tip is that if you’re in an accident, only use the tow company called by NYPD.
3. Immigration Assistance Scams: If you need legal advice about immigration, only go to an attorney or someone who is accredited and works for an organization that is recognized by the Board of Immigration Appeals. Notaries can’t give legal advice or draft legal papers.
4. Predatory Schools: Looking for higher education? Schools offer everything from air conditioning repair and cosmetology to medical technician training are great, but some use high-pressure recruiting tactics and may mislead you into taking out a lot of financial aid and then make it difficult to complete your degree so you’re forced to take out more aid. Make sure you research schools and get the tuition cancellation policy in writing.
5. Electronic Store Scams: Some electronics shops in the city are known to sell refurbished items as new or push unwanted accessories or unnecessary warranties. The DCA urges shoppers to do research before buying a new gadget, make sure to go to electronics shops that have licenses and get an itemized receipt and look closely for hidden fees or add-ons.
6. Parking Ticket Scam: If you get an email from the NYC Department of Finance that ask you to open attachments or click on links to confirm parking ticket payments — do not open. Delete them right away. Scammers have been sending these emails that could infect your computer with malware which can steal sensitive information or install ransomware that could lock all files on your computer until you pay a fee. If you want to check on the status of a parking violation, check with the Department of Finance at nyc.gov/finance.
7. ATM Skimmers: Trying to withdraw cash from an ATM? Keep an eye out for hidden cameras and fake pin pads. Some identity thieves install skimmers that can read the information on your card. These small devices are hard to detect and go over the normal card slot. Use ATMs that are in the bank lobby or under video surveillance and always cover the keypad.
8. Phone Scams: If a caller pretends to be from a utility company, the IRS or a kidnapped family member, and then asks for payment from a Green Dot prepaid debit card, you’re being scammed, the city says. Don’t fall for it. In these cases, the DCA says to hang up to avoid any transmission of personal information. The IRS will never call or email you for your personal or financial information. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS but you suspect it is an imposter, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 and then file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
9. Grandparent Scam: The elderly in New York should be wary of receiving emails or phone calls in the middle of the night stating their grandchild is in serious trouble due to an accident or jail time. While your first reaction may be to send money quickly, police say to hold off and call your loved ones first to make sure they are OK. Con artists will pretend to be everything from gang members to hostage-takers to scare people into paying thousands of dollars.
10. Rental Listing Scam: If you respond to a rental listing on a third party website like Craigslist, be wary of people who pretend to be real estate agents and then collect the money without owning the listing. When you’re apartment hunting, never complete an application or give advance payment before seeing an available listing and never wire money or use a prepaid card like Green Dot MoneyPak. Red flags include an “agent” claiming that he is out of town but has arranged for the keys to be delivered to you once you make payment.
To file a complaint with DCA or check the license status of a business, visit nyc.gov/consumers or call 311.