‘Scammers’ offer COVID-19 kits for personal info, New York State says | #phishing | #scams | #cybersecurity | #infosecurity | #hacker

New York consumers are being targeted by “unscrupulous scammers” with an aim of getting personal information in exchange for a free at-home COVID-19 tests, state consumer and health officials said.

The “scammers” claim to be “online providers” of the tests and can send kits sooner if information such as a Social Security number is sent through text, email or phone, said the state Division of Consumer Protection and the Department of Health in a news release Tuesday.

The Biden Administration launched a website, COVIDTests.gov, earlier this month for Americans to request four at-home tests per address for delivery by the United States Postal Service.

“The arrival of the COVID-19 free at-home tests is one more tool in the fight to end this brutal pandemic, but unfortunately, it also creates new opportunities for unscrupulous scammers to attempt to lure people into unintentionally providing their personal information,” said acting state Secretary of State Robert J. Rodriguez in the release. “As the free at-home test program is rolled out, New Yorkers can thwart the scammers by keeping their personal, financial and health information safe and questioning any requests for a Social Security number, credit card, health insurance or other personally identifiable information from anyone not affiliated with a trusted health or government entity.”

The White House has said tests ship within 7 to 12 days of ordering. State officials said COVIDTests.gov does not require a Social Security number, credit card, or other personal information beyond a name and address.

Consumers are advised to hang up on anyone offering a free testing kit, be aware of emails from unknown senders and avoid clicking on links from unknown sources.

“The availability of free COVID-19 test kits from the federal government will help millions of Americans to have multiple tests on-hand as we continue to monitor and navigate the winter surge,” said State Health Commissioner Dr. Mary T. Bassett.

Information is available by contacting the Consumer Assistance Helpline at 1-800-697-1220, which is available Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., not including state holidays. Consumer complaints can be filed at www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection

The consumer protection division has previously warned consumers to be on the lookout for phishing schemes.

In October, the state warned consumers about receiving unsolicited text messages seeking New Yorkers’ vaccination status.

In July, then-Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed legislation expanding the definition of telemarketing to include text messages in an attempt to shield unsuspecting cellphone users from phishing scams and unwanted robotexts, officials said.

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in March 2020 warned consumers of cybercriminals pretending to be from the federal agency and asking individuals to click on a link for tips to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Consumers who clicked on the link ran the risk of downloading malware and other computer viruses.

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