Trying times can bring out the very best in people, but unfortunately, the flip side can also apply. Such is the case with the current Coronavirus pandemic and a host of new scams that have cropped up. Criminals know that financial troubles are on the minds of many Americans, and they are preying on these fears. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), they have seen scams totaling close to $13 million just since Coronavirus made its way to the U.S.
Beware of these common scams and avoid being their next victim!
Stimulus Check Scams
Many Americans have already started to see stimulus checks being direct-deposited into their account. But there has been a lot of confusion surrounding these checks, who is eligible, how much money to expect, etc., and scammers are standing by hoping that people will freely hand over their bank account information in exchange for help. They will call pretending to be from your bank or the government asking you to verify the information. Don’t fall for it!
Experts say that if you filed a 2018 or 2019 federal tax return, the government would know how to get your check to you. And if they don’t, they are working on a way for Americans to tell them where to send the money. If nothing else, they will mail a physical check to your last known address.
Products & Treatment for COVID-19
Americans are scared of Coronavirus, and rightfully so. And in the wake of the virus making land domestically, a lot of products like face masks and hand sanitizer became hard to find in a hurry. Now, scammers are creating fake websites selling these in-demand items and hoping that consumers will buy them so they can steal their financial information. The same is true for at-home test kits and treatments; however, there are no such approved items on the market.
The moral of this story is to be careful where you shop. Know who you are giving your credit card or bank details to before you hit the “purchase” button. Avoid unfamiliar websites, and look for a lock icon in your search bar that indicates your information is encrypted (i.e., hackers can’t steal it).
The Coronavirus pandemic has caused economic problems and put a lot of Americans out of a job overnight. Understandably, many people are looking for any way to earn a living right now. But scammers have caught on in the way of work-from-home opportunities. You send them money for training, or they will ask for your banking information to pay you. Beware! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Debt Reduction Scams
There is no doubt that everyone is feeling the financial strain from the Coronavirus pandemic in one way or another, and many are watching their debt pile up with no way to pay it down. Scammers have caught on and started offering debt reduction techniques in exchange for your hard-earned money. And then they take your money and disappear into the night with it. This is another instance where if the idea sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Trust your instinct, and reach out to your credit card companies and service providers directly if you need assistance. They know the hardships people are facing, and most are willing to work with you.
Text Message Scams
Scammers are bad people, and incidentally, they have no shame in trying to hurt people in any way possible. Most everyone has a cell phone these days, and now, they have resorted to text message scams during the pandemic, saying that someone who the recipient has come in contact with has COVID-19. The text then includes a link out to a website that contains malware that can be installed on your computer to steal your personal information. Be especially wary of any websites that have “Coronavirus” or “COVID-19” in the website name itself; they are more than likely fake.
You might not be familiar with the term data scraping, but when explained, it makes all the sense in the world for scammers. Let’s face it: life in quarantine can get pretty boring at times, so people have been spending a lot more time on social media than ever before. You’ve probably seen the silly posts people have shared like, “Post photos of your first car!” or “Figure out your quarantine name by mixing your favorite food with the street you grew up on.” If these sound like responses you might have used to answer questions to recover a password, you’re not crazy. And scammers know it. Be careful with what you post online, even if it seems harmless in the moment.
Scammers are getting more and more creative by the day, so it’s increasingly important that you protect yourself during the COVID-19 pandemic, but also beyond. These are all potential ways you could be scammed at any time, so be mindful and protective of your personal information.
We are an essential services company, and we hope that you and your family are staying safe and healthy during the Coronavirus pandemic. If we can assist you in any way, please reach out. We are here to help!