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Beware of new COVID-19 scams!

The Bayonne Police Department and Hudson County Executive warn residents

The elderly are often prime targets of online or phone scams.

Amid the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers and fraudsters have been looking to take advantage of vulnerable residents using online and phone scams. Now the Bayonne Police Department is warning residents against new scams, including a scheme involving PayPal and Amazon accounts.

Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise is also warning SNAP recipients of a scam by FSP Consulting intended to steal personal information

COVID-19 scams

Chief of Police Robert Geisler said that in this scam, victims receive an email stating their Amazon or PayPal account has been hacked, used by someone else, or that there is a general problem with the account. The fraudster will then request a call or call the potential victim and request account information, personal information, or money via gift cards to restore the account.

According to Geisler, it’s always best to verify the identity of any inquiry. He advised residents to browse the web securely using “https://” when shopping online and to type in the website rather than click on any link provided.

Residents are reminded to check credit card statements regularly for unauthorized purchases; never give personal information over the phone or email; always verify anyone who calls or comes to your home uninvited; and shred documents containing personal information.

Geisler said that another scam includes the use of a “Caller ID Spoofing Application.” Fraudsters can manipulate their telephone numbers to appear as any number they wish, such as the IRS, PSE&G or the local courthouse. Then the scammers request money for unpaid services via gift cards, bitcoin, or money transfers.

Fraudsters may posse as family members injured, being held hostage, or in trouble with the law. The scammers then request money from the victim via gift cards, bitcoin, or money transfers, to remedy the problem.

Residents should be aware of sweepstakes scams that occur when a fraudster calls advising victims that they won the lottery but must pay taxes prior to receiving the winnings. The victim is instructed to pay via gift cards, bitcoin, or money transfers.

The caller may request personal identifying information or bank account numbers so they can “deposit the winnings.”

“The bottom line is, if someone calls with urgent news or has a convincing story and then pressures you to pay them by buying a gift card, sending Bitcoin, or wiring money, stop. It is a scam!,” Geisler said. “Aways verify someone’s identity and affiliation with a certain company prior to allowing them access to your residence.”

For nonemergencies, residents can call the BPD at 201-858-6900 for assistance.

Scams target SNAP recipients

DeGise warned residents, especially clients or applicants to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), to beware of solicitations made by any other agency, company, or consulting group other than the Hudson County Division of Family Services.

That warning includes but is not limited to a company identified as FSP Consulting.

The Division of Family Services received a complaint from a Hudson County resident and SNAP recipient against FSP Consulting, alleging among other things that the resident was solicited by this company and asked to provide confidential information such as bank account numbers.

“The Hudson County Division of Family Services is the only agency a resident should have contact with regarding SNAP benefits, and it will NEVER request bank account information,” DeGise said. “If you receive a phone call or correspondence from anyone other than the Division of Family Services related to your benefits, please disregard this contact and immediately report it to the Division of Family Services or to the Hudson County Division of Consumer Protection.”

These scams are designed to take advantage of vulnerable residents, such as those wishing to cooperate as fully as possible in order to receive needed benefits for their families.

While clients may not have significant financial assets, confidential information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers, and other identifying information can be used to create fake identities to scam others.

Residents who have been defrauded by FSP Consulting, or its subsidiaries, or any other entity and have not yet reported it, may contact Robert Knapp, Division Director for the Hudson County Division of Family Services at 201-395-5463 or Steve Krywinski, Chief of the Hudson County Office of Consumer Protection at (201)795-6231 or email skrywinski@hcnj.us.

“Our first line of defense in the fight against fraud is you,” DeGise said. “Please contact us if you receive this kind of solicitation to help us protect you, your families and your neighbors.”

For updates on this and other stories, check www.hudsonreporter.com and follow us on Twitter @hudson_reporter. Daniel Israel can be reached at disrael@hudsonreporter.com.

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