As COVID-19 continues to impact the U.S., there has also been an alarming increase in fraudulent activity related to the pandemic. As of June 2020, the FTC reported receiving more than 103,000 fraud complaints due to COVID-19, totaling $68.11 million in total fraud loss. To help you safeguard your money, we’ve highlighted five scams and how to avoid them:
Scam #1: Expediting Stimulus Checks
The IRS began distributing economic impact stimulus checks on April 13 through direct deposit, on April 24 by mail, and they will continue distribution through September 2020. If you have not received a stimulus payment yet, you may receive an email or phone call providing ways to expedite delivery of your payment or increasing the amount; this is a scam. Instead, if you have questions, visit https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment to review the status of your payment. You’ll need your Social Security number, date of birth, street address, and zip code to access your information.
Scam #2: Distributing FDA-Approved COVID-19 Testing
The FDA recently approved the first “at-home” test for COVID-19; however, do not purchase these tests online. To stay safe, visit a testing facility, or consult your healthcare professional.
Scam #3: Providing a COVID-19 Miracle Cure
Please don’t fall for emails, calls, or websites that claim they have a cure for the coronavirus. There is currently no cure or treatment for the virus. Unless you receive advice from your healthcare professional or the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), ignore any communication you receive.
Scam #4: Making False Claims for Products or Services
When COVID-19 hit, many essential household supplies, such as toilet paper and sanitizing wipes or sprays, became hot commodities. Unfortunately, many fraudulent businesses claimed to have these products in stock and charged significantly marked-up prices to obtain them. And in some cases, consumers or companies that purchased these products never received them. Additionally, you may have received texts or phone calls about product offers touting low-priced health insurance, student loan payment plans, and debt consolidation solutions. Just remember one important thing – if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Scam #5: Donating to a Cause
Fake charities always pop up during times of crisis, and the pandemic is no different. Just be sure if you donate to a charity or a cause with which you are familiar. That way, you can be sure your donation is going where it should go to help others in times of crisis.
Tips to Avoid COVID-19 Scams
How can you avoid being a victim of any of these scams? Consider these simple rules:
- Don’t pay significantly more for an item online than you would in a store (excluding shipping).
- If you receive information asking for your financial information upfront via text or email, it’s likely a scam. Delete the email or text immediately.
- Never click on a link or attachment via email or text if you are unsure of who the sender may be.
- Do not provide financial information over the telephone if you didn’t initiate the phone call.
- Report any unauthorized transactions in your account immediately. Call us at 831-425-7708 to report any issues you may find.
- Report any fraudulent activity you encounter to the FTC. Click here to learn more.