Seniors are often primary targets for scammers, and more so today than before as every day we learn about new COVID-19 scams. Scammers are notorious for playing on people’s fears and posing as representatives of credible government or medical agencies and financial institutions.
In this blog, we have attempted to capture and share many of the current scams; nonetheless, please be aware that more scams will surface in the coming months. To protect yourself and your loved ones, it is important to remember that if an offer, message, phone call, or text sounds unusual or too good to be true, then it probably is. Always trust your gut instinct.
Currently, there is no vaccine, no cure, and no mail-to-home testing kits for COVID-19. It’s important to stay up-to-date on facts and progression of the virus through proper channels by visiting sites that include the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Be aware of these types of scams:
- Don’t fall for claims about virus kits
As previously stated, there is currently no cure or vaccine for this virus. Scammers are texting, calling, and emailing people to sell them “at-home testing kits” as well as air filter/house sanitation cleaning kits to eliminate the virus in the home. These are false claims as no such resources are presently available.
- Don’t trust strangers to run your errands
Many “companies” have sprung up, offering to run errands for seniors such as procuring medication, buying groceries, and the like. These scammers ask for credit card information or cash and then literally run away with your money.
- Don’t fall for the story about your grandchild needing help
Scammers are calling seniors and making statements such as, “Your grandchild or grandchild’s friend has the virus and is in need of your financial support to help with treatment” and asking for credit card numbers over the phone or requesting that money be wired. Never give any personal information to anyone over the phone, by email, text, or even in person—this includes your credit card number, bank account information, Social Security number, or any other personal information. If you do get such a call, hang up and call your grandchild instead to verify information. These calls/texts can happen to anyone, so please ask questions, and get the facts directly from the source.
- Don’t send money to continue your Social Security benefits
Scammers will try and get seniors to send money or claim there is a fee to continue receiving regular benefit payments while the United States practices shelter in place. The Social Security Administration is closed due to COVID-19, but it will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current pandemic.
- Track your IRS stimulus package payment
The IRS is sending out stimulus checks called “Economic Impact Payments.” You can track your payment if you have not yet received it on the IRS website; it will be issued from The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. If the IRS has your direct deposit information from the previous year’s tax returns, your money will be deposited directly into your bank account. Don’t fall for any calls from people claiming that they are from the IRS asking you for your bank account or other personal information so that they can mail you a check, or make a deposit in your account
- Beware of malware, fake websites, and fraudulent charities
If you can and want to contribute to a charity during this time, please go directly to the charity’s website and call the number on the website to verify that you have the correct one. Never give your personal banking information over the phone if someone calls you claiming to be from a charity. Do your research first and make sure the charity is legitimate. In addition, be very careful with the websites you visit as scammers are creating websites imitating actual charities or the WHO, CDC, etc. The website addresses should end in .com or .gov and should not contain any extra numbers or letters that seem suspicious. These fraudulent websites may contain malware and will give your computer a virus, or they will collect your personal information such as bank passwords. Keep your computer and security settings up to date. If you come across a fraudulent website, please visit ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-800-677-1116 to file a complaint.
- Always ask questions and communicate with those you know and trust
Scammers are calling or sending emails, imitating bank representatives or investment companies and even doctors/bankers. It is important to remember that if the communication sounds strange, it probably is a scam. Trust your gut. Hang up the phone, delete the email, and call your bank or doctor and ask questions. Do not participate in any new investments without consulting with your financial advisor. Some investment scams are often styled as “research reports” that result in products or services of publicly traded companies that can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19.
If you think you are being targeted or you have received an email or text that seems suspicious, do not respond; instead, check for information on the aforementioned websites, conduct your own research on Google, and ask a trusted family member or friend for assistance. For up-to-date information about COVID-19 scams, please visit ftc.gov/coronavirus.
Please stay safe, practice social distancing, and remain physically and fiscally healthy. We will all get through this together!