Oswego County Issues COVID-19 Scam Alert

OSWEGO COUNTY – Extreme situations and tragedies usually bring out the very best in people. Neighbors help neighbors and communities come together. However, they can also bring out ruthless criminals as well. Oswego County Legislator Chairman James Weatherup warns residents to be on the look-out for scams as Oswego County battles the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We are facing trying times right now and, while we’re encouraged by the support of many of our neighbors and the community businesses who have stepped up to help us by donating supplies, there are other unsavory characters in the world who would prey on us during this time of crisis,” said Legislature Chairman Weatherup.”Scammers and fraudsters are using this time to prey on public fears for health, safety and financial security in the face of a global pandemic.”

In one such scam reported to Oswego County, people in isolation or quarantine were being asked for private health information, addresses, phone and social security numbers by people posing as government officials or insurance companies. These imposters told the patients that they had to give up this information for their COVID-19 care to continue. The only government officials these patients should be communicating with are the Oswego County Health Department officials.

The New York State Office for the Aging also issued a warning about scams targeting seniors. In several instances, older adults reported receiving a postcard addressed to “Resident” from the National Residential Improvement Association. The postcard looks official and contains an offer to help residents get a grant to repair their home.

Sara Sunday, director of the Oswego County Office for the Aging, emphasizes that “this is NOT a legitimate government program and the company does NOT have a valid business license. It has been reported to the Better Business Bureau repeatedly.”

Scams preying on virus-related fears are being reported across the country. They include robocalls, text messaging and email campaigns offering COVID-19 testing kits, fake cures and fraudulent health insurance among other things. Other scams offer HVAC duct cleaning, student loan repayment and debt consolidation. They may also request donations on behalf of veterans, seniors, first responders and health care workers. They target both individuals and businesses and may be disguised as credible agencies, reputable charities or the next-door neighbor.

“In the next few weeks, most residents will be expecting to receive their federal stimulus checks and scammers will be at the ready,” said Chairman Weatherup. “We want to do all we can to prevent them from taking advantage of our residents and further compounding this public health emergency.”

He reminds residents not to give personal information to anyone they don’t know.

“Remember,” he said, “government employees won’t ask you for personal or financial information such as your social security or bank account numbers. They also won’t ask you to verify your personal information in order to either ‘release’ the funds or to release them more quickly.”

The Internal Revenue Service has reported several incidents of people receiving checks already and notes that these are fraudulent. According to the IRS, it will take about three weeks for the distribution of checks to begin. For more information about how this process will work, go to www.irs.gov/coronavirus.

To report fraud, contact local law enforcement. Call the Oswego County Sheriff’s Office at 315-349-3302, the Oswego City Police Department at 315-342-8120, or the Fulton City Police Department at 315-598-4504. Reports can also be made to the New York State Attorney General’s Office at 1-800-771-7755.