Be on Alert for Coronavirus and Stimulus Check Scams
There is one thing we can count on in life. No matter what the problem we’re dealing with is. Someone will try to take advantage of us.
And the more vulnerable the victim, the more successful the perpetrator will be. There are people who spend their entire adult lives preying on the defenseless.
They watch for opportunities to exploit them. Such as with scare tactics connected to the coronavirus pandemic.
Let’s make sure we don’t become victims of their scams. And let’s help our most vulnerable relatives and friends avoid these pitfalls as well.
Preying on the Vulnerable
Scare tactics work best when people are already on edge. And that’s the exact scenario we’re in right now.
Older folks know they are vulnerable to the coronavirus. So unscrupulous people prey on them. It’s the same with those waiting on much-needed stimulus checks.
The first step in avoiding being a victim is anticipating what’s coming. Today I want to warn you about some of the COVID-19 and stimulus check scams out there.
Not only so you can avoid them yourselves. But also so you can warn those you hold dear.
Phony Calls Getting Answered
Many people are on the lookout for stimulus checks and unemployment benefits these days.
So they are more likely than normal to answer a phone call that looks like it’s from a financial institution.
It’s possible the “financial institution” is a scam artist. And that scammer knows many people are working from home these days.
The recorded message tells recipients to call a certain phone number for information about a payment they’re due. The Federal Trade Commission has warned people to not respond to these calls and texts.
‘Pandora’s Box of Opportunities’
The same type of thing is happening in connection with the coronavirus pandemic.
A total of 37 percent of those responding to a recent survey said they believed they’ve been targeted by fraud connected to COVID-19.
And 44 percent acknowledged they felt more vulnerable to these types of scams. Due to working at home more often because of the virus.
Sam Espinosa works with a company developing technology to detect fraudulent calls. He said the schemes out there are “a Pandora’s box of opportunities that they can leverage.”
What to Watch For
Of course, there are also plenty of legitimate businesses. So, how do we know what’s real and what isn’t? Here are some things security experts say we should be aware of.
Fake Websites. This is a tough one because perpetrators go to a lot of trouble to make sure their websites look legit.
They know what consumers are having a hard time finding these days. Such as disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer and facemasks.
So, they make it look like they’re offering these items at good prices. But in reality they just want to gain your personal financial information.
How do you know what’s real? Website domains ending in “com.co,” “.ma” and “.co” could be fake. But even if it’s a seemingly legitimate domain ending in “.com” or “.org”, do a search to see if there are complaints about them.
Phishing Scams. If you receive a text message or email, don’t assume it’s legit. Even if it says it’s from organizations such as the Internal Revenue Service. Or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
These communications will direct you to fraudulent websites. There they will ask you for personal information. Or tell you to download a file containing malware.
Look carefully at the website address. They often seem legitimate, but are off by a character or two. Phone numbers in these texts and emails often have more than 10 digits. Your best bet is usually to delete the message.
Fake Phone Calls. Some robocallers make it look like they’re calling you from a financial institution or government agency.
Another trick involves two scammers working in tandem. One is on the phone with you, the other with your bank. They’re trying to convince the bank agent that you are requesting information about your account.
Espinosa said, “What they’re looking for is any crack in the system.” He added that some banks receive thousands of high-risk calls per day.
If in doubt, hang up and call the number that showed up on your screen. Better yet, just hang up.
How to Handle Scams
Here’s more advice about how to handle potential scams regarding COVID-19 and finances.
- The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text or social media about your stimulus payment. Ignore these communications because they’re scams.
- Also ignore communications offering a COVID-19 vaccination or product to treat it. There are no approved vaccinations or treatments yet.
- When you receive emails from someone claiming to be from the CDC or World Health Organization, delete it. And don’t click on links. For information on the virus, visit coronavirus.gov.
- If someone requests asks a donation to fund coronavirus research, check their website thoroughly. Search for comments about it. Never donate cash or wire money.
- Hang up on robocalls. They are illegal and almost always fraudulent.
- Be leery of anyone selling respirators, ventilators and certain disinfecting products. It is a federal crime to hoard or price gouge these items.
There are enough problems in life without scam artists taking advantage of us. But that’s the way it is. So, be vigilant and help others do the same.