By Leslie Farin
Scammers are increasingly creative today, especially during these difficult times. Right now, in the midst of the unprecedented Covid-19 health crisis, stay alert. Know people may try to take advantage of you. Don’t click on a link from sources you don’t know and only answer phone calls from familiar numbers. These scammers misrepresent themselves with official sounding names and often apply pressure to encourage quick decisions about payment. The Fraud Watch Network Helpline receives an estimated 20 calls daily about scams tied to Covid-19.
Fake Stimulus Check
Scammers may send a fake check to you, then call you after you deposit it to say they sent you too much money. They will tell you to transfer money back to them or action will be taken against you. How you will know if your stimulus check is coming
Another fake check scam involves your being asked for an advance payment to get your stimulus check. You will never be asked for payment in advance by the government; if that happens, the check is a fake.
Hang up IMMEDIATELY. Those looking to profit from Covid-19 related fears may contact you with an illegal robocall pretending to be Medicare, the IRS or a company offering a tremendous work from home opportunity. Learn more about scam calls from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
Do not purchase an at-home testing kit, even if the person selling it claims to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These are fake tests. Do not be influenced by people going door to door wearing a white lab coat or hazmet gear. The latest scam we are seeing is fake testing sites set up in obscure place such as church parking lots. They may charge exorbitant upfront fees or advertise “free to Medicare beneficiaries”. Use ONLY approved testing sites affiliated with trusted hospitals and providers.
Scammers peddle fake cures and medical advice, both by phone and going door to door. Ignore them – a credentialed medical professional is the only one who should treat you!
Over the last month or so, fake websites, social media accounts and email addresses selling supplies in short supply popped up all over the web. Do not order, or even open an email or click on a link, unless you can verify it is reputable. People who purchase from these scammers out of desperation find they do not receive the supplies and lose their money.
Individuals posing as healthcare workers or hospitals call or email to say they treated your friend or family member for Covid-19 and demand payment. They may have a name or simply use a familial term such as grandchild or cousin. Do not give your credit card number or any other personal information over the phone! If you experience this scam, ask the caller for their name, the name of the office or hospital and their phone number where you can call back. Then look into the situation and the caller.
People need help to survive this crisis and many reputable organizations ask for donations. However, some are scams; only donate to charities you confirm are legitimate! (Learn more about charity scams.)
You may receive an email from people posing as health officials, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) who try to trick you into downloading malware. They want to gain access to your personal and financial information.
We all want to contain and track Covid-19, but not all those who contact you are legit. Some entrepreneurial scammers created malware that will steal your personal and financial information when downloaded. Do not download apps on your smartphone unless you know for sure they are the real deal.
Compassion and Romance Scams
Many of us are alone during this crisis. Scammers take advantage of this lonely time by trying to strike up an online friendship or romantic relationship with you. Be wary of strangers who try to quickly gain your trust. Their goal is to obtain your personal and financial information.
The Bottom Line
Coronavirus scams target seniors. Be wary of suspicious texts,calls or messages, even if they come from numbers or emails you recognize. Scammers often spoof phone numbers or hack emails and social media accounts to trick you into responding. Do not click on random links. Check on a charity before donating by either calling or looking up their website. Never share your personal and financial information; remember, the government will not call to ask your for your information or money. Report scams to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
top image source: yogasdesign from unsplash.com