Alert Against COVID-19 Vaccine and Stimulus Scams

Fraudulent Actors May Send Malicious Messages and Phishing Emails

While Attempting to Access Consumers’ Personal Information

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James today issued an alert to New Yorkers to remain vigilant against potential scams related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) public health crisis. As more New Yorkers become eligible for the vaccine that will help prevent the spread of the disease and a new round of stimulus payments are sent out to combat the economic fallout of the pandemic, scammers are seeking to take advantage of innocent New Yorkers by making fraudulent promises. The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 was passed by Congress and signed into law earlier this month in an effort to help speed the nation’s health and economic recovery. The law increased access to vaccines and authorized the U.S. Department of Treasury to issue emergency stimulus payments to Americans to help offset the costs of essentials, in addition to providing a multitude of other vital provisions to aid Americans. However, fraudsters are now imitating the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and other federal agencies in an effort to access consumers’ personal information by promising access to additional stimulus payments, the ability to skip lines for vaccines and provide other needed services.

“Scammers are out there, and they are continuing to find a slew of new and shameful tactics to exploit this pandemic,” said Attorney General James. “These cyberattacks are just the latest example of unscrupulous individuals capitalizing on health and economic suffering, and it is crucial that New Yorkers remain vigilant to ensure they do not fall victim to these illegal activities. Promises to skip the vaccine line or receive additional stimulus payments are lies, plain and simple, and New Yorkers need to remain alert. I encourage all New Yorkers to follows these safety tips and report suspected scams to my office. We remain committed to protecting consumers’ health and wallets and rooting out fraud.” 

There have been recent reports of scammers posing as the “IRS Rescue Plan Dept” and attempting to steal people’s personal and financial information through malicious messages, known as phishing emails. To make these scams even more deceiving, the emails may include the IRS logo to establish credibility, and often could have an official-sounding subject line, like “IRS Rescue Plan Act.” In other instances, the subject lines have read: “Joe Biden Rescue Plan Act,” “IRS Rescue Plan Form,” or “President’s Rescue Plan Act,” among others.

Many individuals seeking to defraud Americans are doing so by promising stimulus payments in addition to the up to $1,400 eligible adults may qualify for and up to $1,400 eligible children could receive, as well as other financial aid while New Yorkers and Americans nationwide continue to suffer through the economic recession. At this time, no additional payments have been authorized by Congress. Bad actors are also preying on New Yorkers’ desire to get vaccinated quickly. Earlier today, all New Yorkers 30 and older became eligible for the vaccine and, in one week, all New Yorkers 16 and older will become eligible. However, lines remain long to get a vaccine, therefore anyone promising New Yorkers the ability to skip the line is doing so fraudulently.

Attorney General James today highlighted the following tips for New Yorkers to follow to protect themselves from these scams:

  • Don’t be fooled by familiar logos and branding. It’s easy for attackers to design emails that look safe and legitimate at first glance. If someone claims to be from the government with a check or a vaccine, it may be a phishing scam that is illegally trying to obtain a consumer’s bank account or other personal information.
  • Look for misspellings and poor grammar. While not always present, emails that contain multiple spelling and grammatical mistakes offer a clear indication that the email is malicious.
  • Never open attachments or click links from those claiming to be from the government unless you have specifically signed up for a notification or an email. Clicking on buttons, such as “Apply Now,” or downloading attachments may enable scammers to download malicious software onto computers that will steal consumers’ personal information, including email addresses, passwords, and other vitally important, yet confidential information. If a consumer is unsure about a message, they should delete it right away.
  • Verify the legitimacy of any unsolicited/unexpected email before interacting with it, especially if the IRS or COVID-19 is mentioned in any way. Consumers need to proactively sign up for a COVID-19 vaccine. If a consumer is eligible for a stimulus payment, they will receive a payment directly from the IRS.

New Yorkers who believe they have been a victim of a scam should contact the Office of the Attorney General (OAG) to file a complaint. New Yorkers can learn more about COVID-19 scams on the OAG website.

Source: Press Release
Date: March 30, 2021
Attorney General’s Press Office/212-416-8060
nyag.pressoffice@ag.ny.gov