COVID-19 SCAMMERS ARE THE NEXT WAVE OF THE VIRUS

KNOW HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF

While many Americans are struggling financially during the COVID-19 pandemic, a few are flourishing; including scammers. Taking notes from a Motley Fool article, published April 14, 2020, (written by Kailey Hagen), it seems scammers are trying to capitalize on panicked and unsuspecting shelter in place consumers.  However, being better informed will help you avoid falling victim to scammers and their tricks.

Below is a list of what The Motley Fool Article considers to be the most dangerous COVID-19 scams going around right now. 

1. Stimulus check scams

The government has already started sending out stimulus checks to millions of Americans and will continue to do so in the coming weeks.  Scammers are trying capitalizing on the confusion around this new process to trick people into handing over their bank account information. They may call pretending to be from the government or your bank, asking you to verify your bank account for the swift delivery of your check, or they might claim to have early access to the checks and offer to deposit the money into your account if you hand over your financial information.

Don’t fall for any of it. If you submitted a tax return for 2018 or 2019, there’s a good chance the government already knows where to send the money. For those individuals whom the government doesn’t have bank account information for, the IRS is working on a form you can use to identify where you want the funds deposited. And if the government can’t get a bank account number for you, it will mail the check to your last known address. Neither the Federal Government nor the IRS will ever contact you by phone, email, or mail asking you to verify your information.

2. COVID-19 product and treatment scams

The pandemic has made some supplies, like hand sanitizer and toilet paper, hard to find. An enterprising scammer may create a fake website pretending to offer these elusive products in the hope that you will “buy” them. Some are also claiming to have access to home COVID-19 test kits or experimental treatment, but there are no treatments or test kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration for home use at this time.

Also, it’s important to be careful about where you shop. Avoid making purchases from unfamiliar websites; but if you want to, do some research online first to investigate its legitimacy and look for a lock icon near the URL bar. This “lock icon” tells you the website encrypts your personal information so hackers cannot steal it.

3. Work-from-home scams

Millions of Americans are out of work until the crisis passes. While many are on unemployment, they may still be under financial strain and looking for ways to earn more money to make ends meet. Scammers may reach out offering a job that promises a large amount of income for a small amount of work. If you respond, they may request you to provide them with a small amount of money for training or special equipment. Or they may request your bank account information so they can directly deposit funds. In reality, there is no job. They will just take the money or the information you give them and use it to steal whatever money you actually do have left. 

If the offer seems legit, do some research on the company and don’t be afraid to contact it and ask questions before accepting a position, especially if being asked for sensitive information. If you get a bad feeling, explore some other options instead.

4. Debt reduction scams

Thieves know some people are really struggling financially and may have trouble keeping up with their debt payments. They capitalize on people’s desire to be rid of their debt by promising debt reduction techniques that probably sound too good to be true (because they are). They’ll ask for some money for their services and then take the money and run.

Look to trusted banks, credit card companies, and other service providers instead who are offering hardship assistance to customers affected by COVID-19 if you are having a hard time paying your bills.  Many are offering programs to defer or forgive amounts due during this crisis, and are legitimate options if you’re struggling to keep up with your payments right now.  

5. Fake websites with exclusive COVID-19 information

COVID-19 has rapidly become one of the most searched topics on the internet, and all sorts of companies have created dedicated COVID-19 pages on their websites to address the crisis. There are also websites that track the progress of the pandemic. Scammers may make COVID-19 websites of their own, possibly claiming to have exclusive information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or a similar organization. When you visit the site, it may download malicious software to your computer that steals your personal information.

Be wary of where you get your information right now to make sure it’s accurate and not part of a scam. You should be especially careful of websites that have “coronavirus” or “COVID-19” in the site name itself, as these have probably just been created recently and could be fake. Rely on legitimate sources, like the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and government websites, for accurate information.

6. Charity scams

Tough times bring out the good in a lot of people, and many companies and individuals are donating money to charities to help those affected by COVID-19. Scammers may reach out claiming to work for one of these charities to request a donation, but the money lines their pockets instead of going to the intended recipients.

If you’re going to donate, make sure it’s to a legitimate charity. Do some research online to see what you can find. You can also search the company in the IRS Tax-Exempt Organization Search Tool. If you can’t find it there, it’s probably not legitimate. Follow the instructions to donate on the company’s website, not information you got from a random phone call or email.

It would be nice if you could count on everyone to have compassion for others during these challenging times. But in every crisis, there are selfish individuals hoping to turn others’ misfortune into their own gain. You may not be able to stop them from trying, but you can stop yourself from becoming another one of their victims by watching out for the above scams and spreading the word to others.

If you encounter any of these or other suspicious-looking “grabs”, never give out personal information, but take notes.  Be sure to document whatever information the scammer gives you; including names, websites, and phone numbers, and then report what you learned to the Federal Trade Commission and your local police.

Written by Crystal Pavloski

Sterk Family Law Group is here to assist you

We are aware that everyone has been affected by the recent response to COVID-19 but we hope that you find some comfort in knowing that we are still operational and here to assist you.

Whether you are a current client or if you are looking for family law or estate planning assistance, our team is here for you and will continue to be available to address your concerns.

To the extent possible, we will offer remote consultations and provide services from a distance.

You may message us here, email our office at info@sterkfamilylaw.com, or call 815-600-8950 and one of our team members will be able to assist you.

This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

 

This is a legal advertisement from Sterk Family Law Group. It does not constitute legal advice and should not be construed as such. This article is for informational and educational purposes only.

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