COVID-19 Scam Update

Scammers are an imaginative lot. No matter what happens, they'll think up a scheme that uses the situation to bilk unsuspecting people (especially seniors) out of their hard-earned money.

There should be no surprise that officials are reporting a growing number of scams related to COVID-19. 

A few days ago, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported an increasing number of scams designed to target older adults. Some involve the IRS and the COVID-related economic impact payments. Other involve COVID-19 tests and miracle cures. Here's what we're seeing:

Medicare Test Kit Scam

Medicare will NOT call asking if you want test kits. This is an attempt to get your money and/or private information.

Fake Cures

Currently, there is no cure or vaccine to treat coronavirus. Any claims that suggest otherwise are 100% false.

Impersonations

Some scammers come to your door pretending to be representatives of government agencies. They can sound convincing, but they're crooks!

Some impersonators claim to be from The Centers for Disease Control (CDC). They claim to be gathering information about infectious diseases. It's important to know that the CDC does not collecte data in this way! If you encounter a person claiming to be from the CDC, contact your local police department. 

Another impersonation scheme involves the people claiming to be census takers for the U.S. Census Bureau. This may be a scam! To confirm that a person at your front door is a legitimate census taker, call 267-780-2600.

Economic Impact Payments

There are reports that people have been receiving phone calls, texts, emails, and social media posts about the economic impact payment to citizens during the COVID-19 situation. These are scams trying to get your private information and/or get you to pay a small fee in order to receive your stimulus check. If you receive a check in the mail, DO NOT DEPOSIT IT. It is a fake. It will take weeks for people to receive a paper check and most will have their funds directly deposited into their banks. The IRS warns taxpayers that scammers might use the following tactics: 

  • Emphasize the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment." The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
  • Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
  • Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer's behalf. This scam could be conducted through social media or even in person.
  • Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

It is vital to remember that the IRS will NOT contact you regarding the economic impact payments. You DO NOT have to do anything in order to receive this payment. The IRS will automatically send these $1,200 payments to older adults who qualify.

Phishing Emails

The Secret Service issued a warning about emails that appear to be sent from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The email contains a link that does NOT connect to the CDC or WHO. It is best to avoid opening emails from senders you do not know.

Beware of text messages that say, "Someone who came in contact with you has tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19" and includes a link for more information. DO NOT click on the link. This text message is a scam and that link is not authentic. 

Scammers may create mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 and insert malware into that app, which will compromise users’ devices and personal information. 

Counterfeit Products & Price Gouging

Many consumers have reported false product descriptions and increased prices while shopping online. Read reviews and look into the seller’s history before making a purchase.

Phony Fundraisers

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests researching charities before donating. You can verify nonprofits at GivingMatters.com.

Tips to Stay Safe

Scammers rely on fear and fear-based decisions in order to steal your information and money. Don’t be afraid to hang up and call someone for advice. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Research and verify companies and organizations through the Better Business Bureau. Knowing about the scams reduces the likelihood of becoming a victim. Never share your bank account, routing or social security numbers.

Be extra careful about social media, especially about what you share. During the COVID-19 shelter-in-place recommendations, many people have turned to social media for human contact, information, and entertainment. A recent trend on Facebook asks us to share our senior photos in support of high school and college seniors who are not able to enjoy graduation ceremonies. The Better Business Bureau advises that we avoid this because scammers might be able to gather information such as high school names and graduating years that could be answers to many people's security questions for accounts. 

Sources: irs.gov and bbb.org

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