A large swath of the country is currently under stay-at-home orders due to COVID-19. Many of us are working from home, many others are filing for unemployment, and we’re all wondering when the U.S. will be able to get back to some sense of normalcy.
For most of us we’re using this time to reconnect with longtime friends, enjoy extended time with our nuclear family, and participate in online happy hours to remain connected to our community. Amid the uncertainty and chaos, it almost feels like a time of rebirth and reconnecting with the things we hold near and dear.
Unfortunately, there are still nefarious forces out there who are determined to do harm by taking advantage of others for their own self-gain. With the promise of stimulus checks and unemployment benefits has also come a host of COVID-19-related scams.
Here are some ways to be careful not to fall prey to COVID-19 scams.
Stimulus Payment Scams
With stimulus payments beginning to be sent out via bank accounts, fraudsters are targeting Americans to divert money to their own pockets. It is vital to keep in mind that the Internal Revenue Service will never email you to verify personal or bank account information in order to send your stimulus payment. If you would like to see the status of your stimulus payment, you should use the secure system on the IRS website.
Fake COVID-19 Testing Sites
The FBI has recently been investigating reports of fake coronavirus testing sites in Kentucky, Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, New York, and Washington State. In these scams, individuals dressed in personal protective equipment were taking mouth swabs for lines of cars seeking COVID-19 tests. The scammers doing this would perform the “test” in return for cash, or showing their Medicare or Social Security cards to “verify” their identity.
To avoid falling for this scam, if you need to be tested for COVID-19 be sure to use hospitals, your healthcare provider, or government resources.
Fake Coronavirus Cures
In Mid-April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) sent out 10 letters to companies in both the U.S. and abroad to “cease making unsubstantiated claims that their products can treat or prevent coronavirus disease.” These letters were in addition to previously sent letters, some in conjunction with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), warning companies to stop claiming that their products cured or prevented COVID-19. These companies sold products including homeopathic drugs, CBD oil, colloidal silver, and traditional Chinese medicines.
The FTC has also warned consumers that scammers are trying to rid people of their money via robocalls. The robocallers try to scam victims into giving them bank account numbers, credit card numbers, trick them into buying fake gift cards, or revealing sensitive information, such as Social Security numbers.
So, How Can Consumers Stay Safe?
In order to stop fraud before it happens there are some important steps that consumers can take so as to not become a victim of scamming:
- Do not give out personal information and access codes to anyone requesting that information unsolicited, including access codes, Social Security numbers, PIN numbers, or credit card numbers.
- Validate a caller’s organization by calling the company back using an official phone number that can be found on a mailed statement from the company, or on the back of your credit or debit card.
- Do not click on unsolicited weblinks from unknown sources.
- The IRS, your bank, and your credit card company will never call or email you asking you to verify personal information.
- Be wary of unknown persons contacting you with ways for you to get your IRS stimulus payment quicker and easier.
By keeping these scams in mind – and ways to avoid them – we can better navigate these strange times. Your stimulus package money should be yours to use as you see fit – not to line the pockets of thieves.