Residents threatened with arrest in latest scam

 

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg

ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg was one of the recipients of a call currently targeting the community. (Photo by Sabina Mollot)

By Sabina Mollot
Last week, Town & Village reported on a phone scam in which the caller claims to be from the IRS and suing the person being called. While variations on the scam have been reported nationwide for some time, there seemed to be a recent rash of phone calls to Peter Cooper Village residents.

Meanwhile, this week, a similar, but even more sinister phone scam has hit Stuyvesant Town.

One resident who received a call was ST-PCV Tenants Association President Susan Steinberg. Like in the previous scam, the caller used a computer generated, female voice when leaving a message on the answering machine. From that voice, however, came a no-nonsense threat of arrest to the person being called over allegations of tax fraud. The caller claimed to be Officer Smith from the United States Treasury who was warning that this was a final notice before the case ends up in Federal Claims Court or an arrest.

“Make sure you call us as soon as possible,” the voice added, after making the arrest threat. The call came from what appeared to be a Los Angeles-based number.

“Why would someone in Los Angeles call New York about tax fraud?” asked Steinberg, who was aware of the scam, and certainly didn’t buy it.

However, she wondered if the perpetrators knew something about the ages of the people they were calling.

“I don’t know if they have statistics on age, but I suspect they’re targeting people who are older,” she said.

Another resident who got the call around the same time as Steinberg, on Tuesday afternoon, also said she wouldn’t be calling back.

The resident, Kay Vota, said she read about the IRS scam in T&V last week, and guessed the scammers were “getting found out. So they’re going to change the way they’re doing it.”

A rep for the IRS last week told T&V said the unknown perps of that scam work from overseas, using technology to change their caller ID to make it seem as though the number is coming from Washington, DC or another local area. Once in contact with a mark, they’ve been known to threaten to sue or deport a victim or put liens on their properties if they don’t make payments using prepaid debit cards or other untraceable means of transfer.

As for the “Department of Treasury” calls, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Office of the Inspector General has issued a warning online at http://www.treasury.gov, confirming that they are from scammers.

“These callers have been described as threatening or abusive, and tell victims they need to make immediate payment to forestall arrest.  THESE ARE FRAUDS.  PLEASE EXERCISE CAUTION IN YOUR DEALINGS WITH ANYONE PURPORTING TO BE FROM A GOVERNMENT AGENCY AND DEMANDING MONEY OR INFORMATION,” the alert said.

It also mentioned a similar scam in which call recipients are told they’re getting grants, but then told they must pay a fee so that the funds are released.

“Likewise, e-mails promising a sum of money and purporting to be from the Treasury Secretary or his staff are false,” it said.

A spokesperson for the department said he couldn’t comment on the call without hearing it, but referred to the online alert.

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Letters to the Editor, Nov. 12

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Cartoon by Jim Meadows

Smoke gets in your eyes

The Tenants Association gets frequent queries as to the legitimacy of management’s installing a dual carbon monoxide/smoke detector and charging $50.00. This typically occurs when a tenant requests a replacement battery for an existing smoke alarm or when management makes an apartment inspection. While the TA has questioned other surprise charges, according to the New York City Rent Guidelines Board, this charge is permitted.

To quote the RGB’s Frequently Asked Questions: “The NYC Housing Maintenance Code requires landlords to provide and install smoke detecting devices in each apartment unit. All smoke detectors must now use a non-removable, non-replaceable battery that powers the alarm for a minimum of 10 years, and shall be of the type that emits an audible notification at the expiration of the useful life of the alarm. The owner may charge the tenant up to $25 per smoke detector (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).

“Landlords are also required to provide and install at least one approved carbon monoxide alarm within each dwelling unit. The landlord may charge the tenant $25 per carbon monoxide alarm (or $50 for a combined smoke/carbon monoxide detector).”

Other questions the TA gets are: Why install a joint detector if tenants have a functioning smoke detector? That way, the tenant would only need to pay $25.00. Furthermore, why can’t tenants buy their own combo detector? In fact, why do we need a carbon monoxide detector?

New York City requires the installation and maintenance of smoke detectors and carbon monoxide detectors. Both property owners and tenants have responsibilities to ensure that all New Yorkers remain safe in their homes from the dangers of fire and carbon monoxide poisoning. Landlords are required to ensure that tenants are provided with both carbon monoxide (CO) and smoke detectors (SD) that comply with the physical requirements of the Building Code.

New York City rules require that where a smoke alarm was installed prior to April 2014 and the useful life of the alarm is not known, “that it be replaced with the newly required model within seven years of the effective date and that the owner is responsible for providing and installing the detector.” The landlord also has to make sure that the device complies with applicable guidelines and has to keep records of installation. Filing is required when devices are changed according to the requirement timeframes or whenever broken/missing devices are replaced.

The occupant has one year from the date of the installation to make the reimbursement (bet you didn’t know that).

The Tenants Association is still looking to see if an exemption for STPCV is possible because our complex uses steam heat, which does not have a carbon monoxide risk. However, our research is still ongoing. In the meantime, please know that the installation of dual carbon monoxide and smoke detectors is legitimate and the $50 fee is an unfortunate, but legal burden.

It is always better to err on the side of safety for our valuable community.

Susan Steinberg
President, STPCV Tenants Association

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