As if COVID-19 has not caused enough distress, scammers are making things increasingly worse.
The Federal Trade Commission recently indicated they have received more fraud cases in the past few weeks than all the first three months of the year. Given that societal fear is high, and millions of stimulus payments are being made in a hastily constructed (and probably not terribly cyber-safe) process, it is, unfortunately, a situation ripe for scammers. Following are just a few things to watch out for.
Stimulus Checks and Unemployment Checks
Any communication to you that requires you to make a payment or divulge personal information in order to receive your check is a scam! If you have questions about the stimulus check process, go to www.irs.gov , where you will find Q&A’s, payment status and other helpful information about the stimulus payments. The IRS does indicate that they will be sending a confirmation letter 15 days after a stimulus check is paid and where it was paid. So, if you receive a confirmation letter but did not receive the payment, there could be a problem.
Social Security Scams
Social Security recipients are reporting receiving official-looking emails and letters that their payments will be suspended due to COVID-19 unless they call a phone number. When they call the number, they are instructed to either provide a payment, or personal information, to reinstate their payment. Social Security benefits are NOT affected by COVID-19, and the Social Security Administration will never ask for your personal information (they already have it!). Nor will they ask you for money – their job is to pay you, not the other way around. If you receive a suspicious communication like this, never respond directly. You can always contact the Social Security Administration independently to ask about the legitimacy of any communication you receive.
This scam involves offering various forms of treatment or prevention for COVID-19. Some involve selling fake cures. Others are impersonating a doctor and requesting payment for the treatment of a friend or family member. Just hang up. If you are concerned about that friend or relative, call them directly.
Scammers are also calling, emailing, or texting pretending to represent legitimate organizations, like the World Health Organization, to request donations. Of course, their pitch will sound legitimate and they will likely ask for payment. As with any unsolicited request like this, never respond directly. If you feel led to donate to a charity, contact that organization directly via their website.
Please talk to your family members, particularly those that may be more vulnerable to scam attacks, about how to detect a potential scam. Always do business directly with a vendor and never through email, text, social media links, or phone calls that cannot be verified.
Stay safe everyone! Our thoughts and prayers are with you!