Hard as it is to believe, there are people taking advantage of the coronavirus COVID-19 health crisis to commit consumer fraud trying to steal your money. Customers Bank wants to take a brief minute to alert you to some of the current scams. We have outlined some of the scams below. For more information, you can review the Federal Trade Commission’s warnings at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/02/coronavirus-scammers-follow-headlines.
Scammers are taking advantage of the fears by setting up websites to sell bogus products and using fake emails, texts and social media posts as a ruse to take your money.
Some scammers pose as a charity asking for a donation to help fight the spread of the virus. Others will ask for donations to help the sick, or those who lost their jobs during the health crisis.
Do not make contributions of cash, gift cards or stock to agencies or organizations with which you are not very familiar. www.guidestar.org is a good resource for checking out a charity’s authenticity and financials.
Beware look-alike and sound-alike names or misspellings like “ReddCross.”
The FTC reports fraudsters are now targeting older adults, posing as panicked grandchildren asking for help with medical and emergency costs. The aim of the scam is to exploit grandparents over the phone or digital messaging channels and trick them into sending cash immediately.
If you receive a call or message asking for cash, gift cards or a wire, do not immediately send the money. Take time to directly contact the family member to confirm the story. Trust your instincts- if a request seems suspicious, it likely is.
For more information, view the FTC’s summary of Family Emergency Scams at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0204-family-emergency-scams.
Scammers use fake websites advertising fraudulent (often dangerous) treatment products and cures. These sites are designed to steal your money with the purchase of a fake product. Some sites might infect victims’ computers with a vicious computer virus that steals your personal and confidential information.
If there is a cure, you’ll hear about it from the CDC through mainstream news. Don’t click on the bait. Don’t buy the product.
President Trump and members of Congress have proposed various plans to stimulate the economy by sending checks to Americans. But no law or executive order has taken effect yet. If someone calls, emails, or texts you saying they are from the government and want to give you money, they are a scammer.
The Federal Trade Commission reminds us:
- The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
- The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
Scammers are using email and text messages scams disguised as messages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, even providing supposed information about coronavirus cases in your neighborhood.
These messages have malicious links that download malware, which gives cybercriminals access to your personal and confidential information.
Unless you are a doctor or world class researcher, the CDC and WHO are not emailing you directly. Don’t open suspicious emails or click on links.
“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.” Scammers are using the old “pump-and-dump” where con artists promote penny stocks for companies that claim to have coronavirus treatment products. The stock price soars with the new trades, and then the con artist dumps their shares at a profit, which leaves the stock price to drop and you to be out your investment.
Don’t make a rash investment decision. Discuss your investments with a qualified and registered investment advisor or broker.
Scammers jump on legitimate online retail websites like Amazon and Walmart to sell expired, damaged, counterfeit, or unsafe products with no intention of taking returns or giving refunds.
Let the buyer beware! Make a separate search for reviews or more information on the seller and product. Again, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Vendors need to beware as well! With stores closed, online retail is higher than ever. Scammers will purchase your products, often buying and paying with an app, only to cancel the payment after the product has shipped, but before the payment has cleared.
Do your best to know your customers. Work with your bank and app vendor to have the latest fraud protection systems in place.
In very elaborate scams, con artists set up fake organizations seeking to “hire” individuals for easy work and good money. This comes at a time when many people, like those in the hospitality industry, are temporarily out of work and in need of a paycheck.
Every applicant is “hired” and work begins immediately with simple tasks. In a short time, however, the new recruits are asked to open Bitcoin wallets or new bank accounts. The “employee” receives a payment by check (that is counterfeit) with instructions to redeposit the money in another account, keeping a little for themselves as payment. The funds are often stolen from hacked accounts. The new hire has just committed money laundering and could go to jail.
Yet one more time: if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Check out a potential online employer as well as you can and if something doesn’t seem right, report it before it’s too late.
As older adults are more susceptible to Coronavirus, many are trying to find help with everyday errands. The FTC reports scammers are taking advantage of this behavior to offer to pick up supplies, groceries or other needs, often never returning with the goods or your money. It is much safer to rely on a trusted friend, neighbor or family member, or to order directly from the store.
Individuals who need additional help can take advantage of the U.S. Administration on Aging’s Eldercare Locator, or call 1-800-677-1116.
If you are helping a loved one manage their money? Consider these tips to keep them and yourself at ease.
Check-in regularly. Call them or video chat to stay connected and let them know you are thinking about them.
Ask Questions. This will help you determine if your loved one has any concerns, or if they noticed any unusual activity in one of their accounts.
Know your responsibilities. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau provides many helpful guides that explain your fiduciary duties, how to identify financial exploitations, as well as how to avoid scams. For more information from the CFPB, click here.
The Secret Service in partnership with the U.S. Department of the Treasury has released a sample of the paper stimulus checks that are being issued to millions of Americans beginning this month in an effort to deter counterfeiters. To learn more about the security features on U.S. Treasury checks, click here.