It’s a sad truth that during times like these, scammers are working overtime to cheat people out of desperately needed money. Whether they’re selling snake oil vaccines or trying to steal your Economic Impact Payment, it’s important to be on the lookout for fraud. Here’s a list of the four most common kinds of Coronavirus scams, as well as basic tips for avoiding fraud whether or not we’re going through a pandemic.
Common COVID-19 Scams to Avoid
- “Miracle” Coronavirus Cures or Treatments
Currently, there is no medically proven coronavirus treatment or vaccine. There are a lot of scammers peddling fake cures and treatments for COVID-19, with some of the larger ones receiving warning letters from the Food and Drug Administration. If you get a text, email, or phone call offering to sell you a coronavirus treatment, you can automatically assume it’s fake.
- Stimulus Check/Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Scams
Another scheme is pretending to be a federal official contacting you about your stimulus check. The most important thing to remember is that the government will never reach out to you over the phone or social media. You should not give your bank information to anyone contacting about your EIP. For updates on the status of your check, you can visit the IRS’ secure website.
- Fake “Relief” Plans or Offers
Scammers know people are desperate. To take advantage of this vulnerability, they’re impersonating legitimate companies and claiming to offer assistance to trusting victims. This “relief” can look like a free cashier’s check if you lost your job, or, in the case of House Representative Katie Porter, a text message advertising free iPhones for workers. These scams all have something in common: They require you to enter bank information in order to claim your “relief.” They’re the perfect example of “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.”
- Bait-and-Switch Shopping Sites or Charities
There’s been an increase of two classic scams: The first is fake charities that ask for donations and either run away with the money or hack into an unexpecting donor’s bank account. The second is online stores claiming to sell high demand items like tissue, gloves, or hand sanitizer, and then either never producing the goods sold, or once again hacking into the customer’s bank account. Either way, when buying something or donating money online, be vigilant about making sure you’re using a secure site run by a trustworthy company or nonprofit.
General Tips for Avoiding Fraud and Identity Theft
- Use complex passwords to protect all of your accounts and devices.
- Avoid suspicious websites or links, and never type login or bank information directly into an email.
- Never share personal information over the phone unless you initiated contact with a trustworthy business through a verified number.
- Regularly check bank statements and credit reports.
- Protect documents containing personal information, and leave as little a paper trail as possible.
What to do if you’re the victim of a scam
Despite our best efforts, even the most diligent people can become victims of fraud or even identity theft. If you believe you may be a victim, you can file a report with the federal government or the local police department. IdentityTheft.gov is the federal resource hub for victims. If you believe your credit has been affected, you should contact one of the nationwide credit reporting companies (Experian, TransUnion, and Equifax) and place a fraud alert on your credit report. Finally, if you discover fraudulent activity on your bank or investment accounts, you will need to dispute those charges with your financial institution through whatever process they use.
For help rebuilding your finances while recovering from fraud, reach out to one of our financial coaches to find out how we help you get back on track with achieving your goals.
Nay’Chelle Harris, Financial Coach