Do you get scam anxiety like us? Your phone rings and it’s an unknown number. You can’t help but feel skepticism that the person on the other end is doing anything but trying to extract some sort of dollar amount from you. Maybe it comes in the form of an email telling you that some sort of action is required but you aren’t sure if it’s a legitimate request or not.
Scams, these days, are as common as they are crafty. As hard as COVID times are already, it’s no exception to the financial predators lurking out there. Here are a few things you can do to keep yourself from becoming a victim to one of these COVID scams:
Research a Charity Before Donating
Scammers might pretend to be a representative of a legitimate charity. Always make sure that your donations are going to the right place. Make your donations by going to the charity’s direct website and using their secure payment system only. Do not give payments or credit card information over the phone, email, or mail. Other scammers will make up their own charity names and even go as far as setting up fake websites and social media. Try to find other sources that legitimize the charity before donating to it. This includes GoFundMe pages.
Unemployment Benefit Scams
There has been a sudden and large increase in unemployment claims and applications, which means any fraudulent claims are like spotting needles in a giant haystack. If someone has your social security and date of birth, they could use it to receive unemployment checks under your identity. If you receive any mail or a direct deposit of funds that is proof of this, be sure to report it to your employer and state unemployment benefits agency immediately to avoid being held responsible for the amount given. Then proceed with the appropriate steps for reporting your identity stolen and protect it from there.
Freeze Your Credit
If you aren’t going to be using your credit for a while, you can freeze your credit to make sure no one can use it without your knowledge. While your credit is frozen, this protects you from scammers being able to open fraudulent accounts.
Counterfeit COVID-19 Tests, PPE, and Treatments
Yes, as cruel as it sounds, there are at-home tests claiming to give results of whether you are COVID-19 positive. At the publishing of this post, there is not an accurate, super reliable over-the-counter COVID test. COVID tests should be administered by a health care provider. Always check the FDA website to verify the claims of products. Certain PPE products like masks, face shields, and eye protection don’t meet the FDA standards and can actually harbor more germs instead of warding them off. Some companies use cheaper materials that don’t perform like they should. Do not buy masks or other PPE that promise protection, but aren’t certified (including Amazon).
Miracle cures and false treatments are also being marketed. Stay away from these products, as they make inaccurate claims and can’t provide solid results to back them up.
Other ways to avoid Pandemic Scammers include:
- Learn how to tell the difference between a real contact tracer and a scammer. Legitimate tracers need health information, not money or personal financial information.
- Hang up on robocalls and don’t answer unrecognized numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home-schemes.
- Do not provide personal information, credit card numbers, social security, etc.
During a more average year, we like to keep focused on how to avoid phishing scams or how to stay safe shopping online. In addition to being cautious of those more routine scams and acts of fraud, we encourage you to be extra prepared during a time of added vulnerability.