Protecting Yourself From COVID-19 Scams
We’re in an extraordinary convergence of events; tax-refund season, stimulus payouts, pandemic, coronavirus shutdowns. If you add in any degree of fear or anxiety, you’ve got a situation ripe for predators to take advantage of. They’ve already started to pop up with their COVID-19 scams.
Unfortunately, where the average compassionate person seeks to give, the scammer seeks to take and victimize. During this time where most people are staying home, they are also spending more time on phones and computers. Covid-19 scams seek to take advantage of fear or concern about the situation we are facing. We are wise to be wary during this time.
How to Steer Clear of COVID-19 Scams
Understanding the Different Types of Scams
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), there are some specific types of scams that are being used to target vulnerable people during the pandemic. They include:
- Vaccine/treatment scams: Scammers are looking to profit from consumers looking for protection from COVID-19. There are no treatments or vaccinations proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this point. Don’t fall for a convincing email or text message telling you otherwise.
- At-Home testing scams: If someone contacts you and offers an in-home test for the virus, it’s a scam. In order to be tested for COVID-19, you have to go to the physical location of a health facility; the tests will be sent to an authorized lab and you’ll be contacted with your results. There are no tests being shipped to private citizens for free or otherwise.
- Medical scams: A newer type of scam involves scammers contacting you claiming to have treated a friend or loved one for COVID-19 and requesting payment for treatment. This is not how medical facilities operate.
- Financial solution scams: Scammers are preying on the financial impact many are facing as a result of COVID-19. Beware of robocalls offering COVID-19 themed work-from-home solutions, repayment plans for student loans, and offers of debt consolidation.
- Stimulus Fund Scams: Scammers are after the checks many Americans are receiving as part of the Stimulus package released by the Federal Government. No department of the U.S. Government will call or text you to verify your personal information or bank account details in order to “release” the funds.
- Malware Scams: If you receive an unsolicited link, please be wary of opening it. There are messages from scammers pretending to represent the World Health Organization, and The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Very often these links have malware that can compromise your devices and make it easy for scammers to get your personal and banking information.
Protecting Yourself from Coronavirus Scams
There are some simple guidelines from the FTC to follow that will help protect yourself against potential scammers. Here are some helpful rules to follow:
- Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or numbers that appear suspicious. Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
- Never share your personal or financial information via email or text messages.
- Do not provide personal or financial information over the phone unless you initiated the contact. Government agencies will never call you to ask for personal identifying information or payment. If you’re pressured to share sensitive information or make a payment right away, hang up and contact the business or agency yourself to inquire about the legitimacy of their claim. Do not contact any business or agency using a number that a potential scammer provides. Look up the numbers yourself.
- Always check up on charities you are considering supporting. You can look them up online, check their website and read reviews before donating.
- Never ever give your personal information to callers who say they are just “verifying your information.” If they are legitimate, ask them to contact you by mail (without giving your address.) If they’re legitimate, they will know how to contact you.
Navigating the landscape of a global pandemic is difficult and it seems our lives change day by day. The same way you practice safeguarding yourself against COVID-19, we must stay vigilant against those who would take advantage of people’s vulnerabilities. We will get though this.
“This storm will pass. Although, it has tested our strength, our foundations, our roots, we will arise stronger, wiser, and smarter. The best is yet to come.” ― Charles F Glassman
If you are experiencing financial difficulty and are looking for a solution, CESI is here to help. Our counselors are available to assist if you are experiencing job loss, temporary loss of income or financial hardship during this time. Contact us today for a free financial assessment with one of our certified credit counselors.