Disreputable, even criminal, opportunists are always ready to capitalize on any challenging situation. When people are worried, fearful, looking for answers, there is always someone ready to pounce and make a profit off their anxiety.
Here are some current coronavirus and COVID-19 scams the Federal Trade Commission is warning people to avoid:
Coronavirus stimulus payment scam: The IRS WILL NOT contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media. Many scammers are calling, pretending to be the IRS, and attempting to get Social Security numbers, bank account information, or government benefits debit card account numbers. Also remember that YOU do not have to pay to get your stimulus money, and that IRS will not come back and tell you to send them money back because you sent too much.
Ohio Department of Insurance Director Jillian Froment issued a consumer alert warning that individuals claiming to be licensed insurance agents are contacting consumers to sell fake insurance products. In most of the situations identified, the individuals are calling from phony telephone numbers, do not hold an insurance license or work for a licensed insurance agency or insurance company, and are heavily marketing the so-called insurance product as providing some sort of COVID-19 coverage.
Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name – including scammers, who are claiming they have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. You place your order, but never get your shipment. What do do? BEFORE you order, check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number, and email address, along with words like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” Even if everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of the transaction.
Many people want to help others in a time of crisis. Scammers use these events to take advantage of your generosity. Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. Do some research before giving by checking for a charity’s listing on sites like Charity Navigator and GuideStar. Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need. Always use a credit card to make your donation safely.
Don’t click on links! Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information — like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords. They use your information to steal your money, your identity, or both. They also use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network. If you click on a link (like the one in the email shown at the top of this page), they can install ransomware or other programs that can lock you out of your data. Scammers often use familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know.
Robocalls – just hang up! Don’t press any numbers. Scammers use illegal robocalls to pitch everything from COVID-19 treatments to work-at-home “opportunities.” Often the recording will say that if you press a number you can speak to a live operator or be removed from their call list – but usually it just lets them know the phone line is active and puts you on their “call again” list.
Don’t become part of the problem. Often well-meaning people are used to spread mis-information. Before you pass on any messages via social media or other means, do some fact-checking by contacting trusted sources. For accurate information related to the coronavirus, visit What the U.S. Government Is Doing, where you’ll find links to federal, state, and local government agencies.
To learn more about coronavirus and COVID-19 scams, visit ftc.gov/coronavirus. You can also sign up for the FTC’s Consumer Alerts. If you If you come across any scams or suspicious claims, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
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