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How to avoid coronavirus scams

Coronavirus-With Money Fanned Out Being Held By a Hand 5081311_640Scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to steal money from people. During these chaotic times, knowing about possible scams is the first step toward preventing them.

Scammers are inventing new schemes as well as repurposing old ones. Be alert as you go about your covid daily lives.

This video offers an overview of what to watch for:

Here are more details on avoiding coronavirus scams:

Covid-19 vaccine scams

As the covid-19 vaccine is rolled out throughout the country, it’s important to be on the lookout for scams.

Beware of scams offering early access to vaccines for a fee.

Don’t share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising to get you the vaccine for a fee. Also, keep in mind that Medicare covers the cost of the covid-19 vaccine. Covid-19 vaccines are also free to others throughout the country, although providers may charge an administration fee.

For the latest vaccine updates, check with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Covid-19 cure, air filters, and testing scams

The Federal Trade Commission is warning about an increasing number of scams related to test kits, cures, or treatments and air filter systems designed to remove covid-19 from the air in your home.

If you receive a phone call, email, text message, or letter with claims to sell you any of these items, it’s a scam.

Testing is available through local and state governments or through your medical providers.

Fake coronavirus-related charity scams

Be careful about any charity calling you asking for donations. And be wary if you get a call following up on a donation pledge that you don’t remember making – it could be a scam.

If you are able to help financially, visit the website of the organization of your choice to make sure your money is going to the right place.

“Person in need” scams

Scammers could use the circumstances of the coronavirus to pose as a grandchild, relative, or friend. They claim to be ill, stranded in another state or foreign country, or in trouble and ask you to send money. They may ask you to send cash by mail or buy gift cards.

These scammers often beg you keep it a secret and act fast before you ask questions.

Hang up and call your grandchild or friend’s phone number to see if the story is true. You could also call a different friend or relative. Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person who contacted you.

Scams targeting Social Security benefits

While local Social Security Administration or SSA offices are closed to the public due to covid-19, SSA won’t suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the pandemic.

Scammers may mislead people into believing they need to provide personal information or pay by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or mail cash to keep getting regular benefit payments during the pandemic.

Any communication that says SSA will suspend or decrease your benefits due to covid-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.

Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General at oig.ssa.gov.

Covid-19 government imposter scams

Many people are following guidance from federal, state, and local governments during the covid-19 pandemic. Some scammers are pretending to be affiliated with the government to steal your money.

Be aware:

  • The government will never call, text, or contact you on social media saying you owe money, or offering help to get your financial stimulus payment faster. If you get a message from someone claiming to be from a government agency through social media, it’s a scam. Report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
  • If you are eligible and haven’t yet received your stimulus payment yet, visit gov and follow the directions. See the FTC’s information on spotting scams related to the EIP.
  • You should visit government websites directly for trustworthy information. Don’t click on links in an email or text message. Scammers often send fake links to websites that look like they’re from the government. Instead of clicking on links in messages, open up a new window and search for the name of the government agency.
  • To get the most up-to-date information on the pandemic, visit gov.
  • You should say “no” to anyone claiming to be from a government agency asking for cash, gift cards, wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or personal and financial information, whether they contact you by phone, texts email, or by showing up in person. Don’t share your Social Security, Medicare ID, driver’s license, bank account, or credit card numbers.

Unemployment benefits scams

Scammers may try to use your personal information to claim unemployment benefits. Some people have reported receiving prepaid cards in the mail with unemployment benefits that they didn’t apply for. Others have reported suspicious transactions and deposits in their bank accounts involving unemployment benefits.

Once you receive the funds, a scammer may contact you, pretend to be from the government, and tell you the benefits were deposited by mistake. They will then ask you to send them the money.

If you receive an unexpected prepaid card for unemployment benefits or see an unexpected deposit from your state in your bank account, report it right away to your state unemployment insurance office and your bank or credit union.

If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, report the incident to your local police and the Federal Trade Commission.

Comments

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Rebecca Forstadt Olkowski

It's such a shame that people have to be so evil that they will take advantage of people at a time like this. Another scam is people insisting that the vaccine and the pandemic are fake. They are the worst.

Carol Cassara

The creativity of these scammers, boggles my mind.

Rita

It's important to keep telling people about these scams. Some people may be more vulnerable during the pandemic because of changing situations, such as job loss. Then, the losses are more devastating.

Jennifer

I've seen the friend in a desperate situation play out before my eyes but through email. I received an email from my sister's email address saying she was in England and that they were robbed and needed money. Not implausible because my sister had been planning a trip to England. But there were several options for her besides reaching out to me, such as reaching out to the family she was visiting in England. Or even reaching out to her adult children.

Change your passwords, don't use simple ones. This is what happened to her. She had a simple password on her email, it got hacked, and they used the information they found to try to scam her friends and family. It's been 10 years now. She doesn't use email anymore. Only texts people from a non smart phone.

Rita

That's an important tip, change your passwords and don't use simple ones.

Laurie Stone

They're out there. Thanks for these things to look out for, some I never would've imagined.

Rita

Yes, it's good to be prepared when you get the scam calls and emails. For example, I just opened my email for today and there was one from "Costco" saying I could get $50 for filling out a survey. Last week, I got one, also saying I'd get $50 for completing a survey, from "Home Depot."

Meryl

A great round-up and review of things to look out for. It never stops - the scam e-mails and calls. So annoying...

Rita

Yes, you always need to be on your guard. I was woken up by a scam call at 6:30 a.m. this morning. It was irritating. I think he said he was from "Medicare." Then, this afternoon I received a call from a police group that's been calling me for years. I think I'll ask them to take my name off the list.

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