Tragedy doesn’t just bring out the best in people and scammers are hard at work trying to take advantage of others during the global pandemic.
A scammer is a modern-day thief, whose one goal is to separate a person from their money by either selling a phony product or gaining access to financial accounts. Unfortunately, older people are considered one of the most vulnerable populations to serious complications from this virus, and they are also the most likely to be targeted by these thieves. While people are respecting stay-at-home and distancing guidelines, it may leave older loved ones susceptible to these scams.
Here are some of the common scams currently circulating as people shelter in place to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus:
- Products that offer to cure COVID-19 from air filters to vaccines. There is no cure for this virus currently, and no at-home test yet so such offers are mostly likely phony.
- As many people are about to receive funds from the government from stimulus packages, there has been an uptick in scams related to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The IRS has warned people to ignore calls, emails or texts purporting to be from their office asking for personal information. For example, note that a scammer will use the terms “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment” but the official term is “economic impact payment.”
- Although the Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed, checks are still being sent out, but scammers are preying on people’s fears that their money won’t come and asking for personal information.
- Resist the urge to donate when you get a call from a charity related to the coronavirus, as it could be fake. These scams might come in the form of a phone call pretending to follow up on a pledge you can’t remember making or be a nonexistent charitable organization.
- People who are not online are at risk for leaflets and flyers and people knocking at the door offering sales of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), which once ordered never arrives, or mysterious “decontamination” services for the home, and more.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has this advice to avoid being scammed:
- Do not respond to texts, emails, or phone calls about checks from the government.
- Ignore any offers for cures or at-home tests for the coronavirus.
- Beware of any emails that appear to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) as these could be “phishing” scams to gain access to bank and other private details.
For additional tips on how to report a scam, visit the FTC website or the IRS website. Or, contact your loved one by phone and provide them the local non-emergency number for the police so that they can report anyone suspicious.