It’s hard to believe it, but yes, in the middle of the most turbulent economic moment of our recent history, there are scammers out there looking to take advantage of us. For Americans who are confused about the changes to tax deadlines and fearful about falling behind on bills, these scams play at the heart of our worries for ourselves and our families.
We’re all vulnerable to scams but this is a particularly awful time to realize that you (or a family member) has been taken in by a crook. We can’t be afraid to open our emails or pick up the phone–but we can have the knowledge to know when not to respond or report a scam to the authorities.
Here are ways to avoid Covid-19 related schemes aimed at parting people from their money.
Never give your data to strangers
Scammers count on talking strangers out of their Social Security, credit card, or other personal information. State and federal agencies advise using your common sense and following these tips. If you’re not sure or your bank is texting, calling, or emailing you when it’s never done that before, don’t respond. Call your bank and confirm the message. Same goes for credit card information, your loans, or anything that sounds suspicious. There’s nothing that can’t wait an extra hour to call and confirm.
The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) also offers some great tips on how to protect yourself from everything from phishing to investment scams.
Hang up on robocalls
Robocalls are annoying in the best of times. Now, they can be downright terrifying. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is so concerned about robocalls targeting Americans during the Covid-19 crisis, that they’re working with the Department of Justice and Federal Trade Commission to shut them down.
Robocallers have been peddling everything including insurance products, IRS payment fears, car payment warnings, and health care scams. The best thing to do is just ignore them, according to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) . Hang up, don’t engage with them, and report them. If you’re not sure, call your health insurer, car insurer, or bank directly to find out the offers are real.
Avoid offers to “get money fast”
The U.S. Department of Treasury has put out a warning to Americans telling them that if they receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to offer Covid-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, do not respond. It’s a scam.
“The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing,” writes Jennifer Leach, an associate director for the FTC’s division of consumer and business education. “The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.”
If you spot one of these scams, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission here.Or just ignore it–and tell your friends to be on the lookout. The IRS also has tips on how to avoid these kinds of scams.
Don’t buy unproven products
We’re all afraid for our health and are hoping for a miracle cure or vaccine. Scammers are taking advantage of our anxiety by peddling unproven, unsafe, and non-existent products to consumers. Take care of your wallet (and yourself) and don’t waste your savings on products that promise to “cure” Covid-19, home testing kits, or vaccinations.
When it comes to solid health information, keep to the CDC, your local department of health, not miracle cures being peddled on social media. No one needs a trip to the emergency room due to sickness stemming from taking an unproven treatment or a recurring bill from a shady company offering a subscription “regimen” to cure the coronavirus.
Watch out for charity scams
It’s pretty sickening but all over the U.S., government agencies are putting out warnings regarding thieves and scammers who play on our sense of compassion and desire to help others during the crisis. Be on the lookout for unverifiable GoFundMe campaigns on your social media feed, or charities that aren’t listed on sites that vet philanthropies, such as CharityNavigator or GuideStar.
You can help others by not passing on information that looks dicey
We’re all home alone and scrolling through social media to pass the time. Instead of just clicking and sharing news about financial products, services, and offers, take a breath and check the source. We all need to be smart for the sake of our friends and families and make sure that they don’t come out of this worrisome time with more headaches.