COVID-19 Presents New Opportunities for Scammers
As we all deal with the new reality around the COVID-19 virus, the requirement to maintain “social distancing” has presented scammers with yet more opportunities to take financial advantage of people. Even in good times, scammers have the ability to prey on anyone and everyone, but this new danger allows them to capitalize on our fear and desire to maintain good health.
Preventing scams is even more challenging now because of our physical separation from work, family and friends. As of April 10, 2020, more than 15,000 Americans reported alleged COVID-19-related frauds totaling nearly $12 million in losses. In response, the Federal Trade Commission provided the following guidelines to avoid COVID-19 scams:
- Do not respond to calls about checks from the government.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits.
- Hang up on robocallers “selling” low-priced health insurance and work-at-home schemes.
- Beware of emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization.
- Never donate in cash, by gift card or by wiring money.
In addition, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration are issuing warnings regarding scammers “selling” products claiming to treat or prevent the virus.
The Centers for Disease Control recommend the following to stave off “government impersonation fraud,” or criminals who are impersonating government officials for nefarious purposes:
- Do not open unsolicited emails from people you don’t know.
- Be wary of third-party sources spreading information about COVID-19. Refer to the official CDC government website for updates on COVID-19.
- Do not click links in emails. Hover your mouse over links to see where they lead. If you think the address is correct, retype it in a browser window.
- Be wary of attachments in any email.
- Do not supply any personal information, especially passwords, to anyone via email.
For those receiving social security benefits, the Social Security Administration (SSA) will not suspend or delay your benefits due to COVID-19. Report social security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at https://oig.ssa.gov/.
If you discover you are the victim of a scam, immediately contact your financial institution to request a recall of funds.
As soon as possible, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at ic3.gov.
Please contact our office if you have any questions during these challenging times.
Be well and stay safe!
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To view other articles in the May 2020 Financial Planning Focus newsletter, click here.
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Source: Federal Trade Commission, Americans report $12 million in COVID-19-related fraud losses, by Megan Christie and Cho Park, April 10, 2020.