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Schneiderman issues urgent warning to New Yorkers for telephone scam targeting Chinese-Americans

PRESS RELEASE

ALBANY, N.Y. -- Attorney General Eric T. Schneiderman today issued an urgent consumer alert, notifying New Yorkers of a new telephone scam in which consumers receive calls from potential fraudsters impersonating the Chinese Consulate to demand payment in exchange for a package or to prevent punishment from the consulate office. New Yorkers who receive such calls should immediately contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 1-877-FTC-HELP.
“It’s unconscionable that someone would prey on New Yorkers — including vulnerable recent immigrants — to try to turn a profit,” said Attorney General Schneiderman. “As these scammers continue to target people across the state, I’m urging all New Yorkers to be on high alert and immediately contact the FTC if they receive such a call.”
The Attorney General’s office recently received a report that New York consumers were receiving calls from someone falsely claiming to be a representative from a nearby consulate office. Some consumers reported receiving calls or messages instructing them to pick up a package, while others received threats urging them to provide information to avoid being in trouble with the Chinese Consulate. Several consumers were led to believe that if they did not offer up information or pay a fine they would suffer negative consequences, including arrest upon traveling to China. In order to resolve the matter, the scammers asked consumers for their bank or credit card information or demanded that they make a bank transfer to the consulate.
In multiple instances, the scammers left messages asking consumers to return the call a number that rerouted consumers to a 911 emergency call center in Polk County, Arkansas. Beginning yesterday morning, the call center received 500 calls from New Yorkers targeted by the scam. Fortunately, none of the consumers who reported receiving this call paid the scammers any money.
According to the FTC, the scammers appear to be calling from outside of the U.S. and targeting people with Chinese last names, including recent immigrants. The New York Police Department reports that since December 2017, 21 Chinese immigrants have been victimized and lost a total of $2.5 million.
Extortion scams are designed to trick victims into paying money to avoid potential harm. In addition to this new scam targeting the Chinese-American community, the Attorney General urges New Yorkers to be aware of other scams, such as the Grandparent scamthe Kidnapping scam, and the IRS scam, which are all designed to frighten victims into making a payment. The resulting harm to consumers can be devastating. In many cases, consumers could end up losing a significant portion of their savings.
Tips To Avoid Falling Victim
If the caller is a stranger, be alert. Be aware that this type of extortion scam depends on fear. The scammer knows they need to work quickly to obtain your money because you may try to take steps, even while on the phone with the scammer, to verify the nature of the call. Scammers will try to keep you on the line.
Attorney General Schneiderman offers the following tips to avoid falling victim to these types of scams:
  • Never give out personal information to a stranger on the phone.
  • Never wire money through Western Union, MoneyGram, or any other wire service to a stranger.
  • Never purchase gift or money cards for the purpose of providing the gift card numbers to someone else.
  • Immediately contact authorities to report potential scams.