From where I sit, 2021 has got to be better than 2020 if we all remain safe, healthy and can hold on to any money we have. In a time when the value of NYC taxi medallions disintegrated from a $1 million to $75,000, and the entire industry has been reduced from the gold standard of transportation to worthless lead, we must be diligent to avoid any scams, especially when it comes to scams designed to separate you from your money.

Many schemes are designed to play on your emotions. Whether you drive for a living, own, are a broker, agent, or mechanic, scams to get whatever money you have left are running amuck throughout the nation!

Scams are perpetrated by phone, email, text, and in some cases in person.

Recently, I received two “interesting” calls: one supposedly from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the other from what they said was the Social Security Administration (SSA). If YOU receive any calls from either of these federal agencies, remember this: THE IRS AND SOCIAL SECURITIY ADMINISTRATION WILL NEVER, EVER CALL YOU!

Many of you have been dealing with the SSA as you’ve tried to apply for unemployment, while others admitted defeat and decided to retire. The IRS callers are arrogant and tell you that you owe them money. You are told that “you must pay now.”  Dealing with both or either agency is commonplace today, but they will NEVER call you.

The current coronavirus scam is scary. You get a phone call from someone stating they are a New York State Covid-19 tracker. They tell you that a friend with Covid-19 is being tracked and reported that you were in their presence about a week ago. For privacy reasons they “cannot give you your friend’s name.” Then they ask for your personal information to make “sure” they have the correct person. They ask for your name, address, and then the kicker, they must check your birth date and social security number.

DO NOT GIVE THEM ANY INFORMATION!

In conjunction with the virus, fake charities are also scam-calling and fake Covid-19 vaccine centers are scam-calling – both in an attempt to steal your personal information.

I once received a real check for over $5,000, sent with an official letter and phone number. The scammer asked that I deposit the check in my account and only “wire” back half as his fee. Too good to be true? Oh yeah. Since the real check, with real routing and account numbers was from Indiana, it takes about a week before the bank finds out it was actually fake. When they do, you will have to pay your bank the amount of the check, plus you’ll lose the money you wired. If you get a scam-check, either give it to the FBI or destroy it.

There is also a Census Scam now. A scam artist pretends to be working for the Census Bureau and will try to collect your personal information, either by phone or by visiting your home.

Then we have the Grant Scams, whereby you pay a fee to get information about grants for free money. We have the lottery or sweepstakes scams where “you’ve won” a prize but must pay a fee to collect it. And then of course the old investment scam, where they offer you high returns without financial risk – boiler rooms aglow.

I helped a tailor friend last year who owned a store and asked for my help. The “Police” would call him, ask for donations “or else.” He gave money once, so they came back two months later. He gave them money twice, and again, they came back two months later. That is when I got involved. Now they leave him alone. Don’t fall for it.

There is a letter in this edition of the Taxi & Livery Times where a driver shares his passenger scam. We used to call them runners because after a long trip, they would run out of the cab where you couldn’t chase them. With today’s economic situation, it’s tougher than ever for many people. Drivers beware.

What exactly is the New York City Taxi & Limousine Commission (TLC) doing about this? Nothing! Apparently, nothing is what they are doing to initiate a rise in medallion values with more money for dedicated drivers.

The best advice I can give you is simple for the new year: DO NOT give anyone your personal information!