A virus isn’t the only thing spreading across the country. Scammers have discovered new potential to con the public, unleashing coronavirus scams via phone calls and emails.
As of August 16, the FTC had recorded 168,000 reports of scams revolving around Covid-19 and/or stimulus payments. Two thirds of those complaints involved identity theft or fraud and reported losses have totaled over $110 million so far.
Watch out for versions of these common scams.
Phony vaccines and treatments. In the US, no vaccine for coronavirus has been approved (yet). Additionally, there are no over-the-counter medications or other treatments approved for preventing or curing the infection. If you receive a phone call, email, or any other communication regarding these items, ignore it. Talk to your doctor about prevention or treatment of Covid-19 and remember that con artists prey upon fear.
Identity theft attempts. While some con artists simply aim to sell you a fraudulent product, many more understand the value of your personal information. Remember these rules regarding your credit card data, Social Security number, birth date, and more:
- Scammers can call from fake numbers, so you can’t trust what your Caller ID says.
- If you’re concerned about Social Security, Medicare, your bank account, or anything else, hang up the phone and call them back directly, using the number you know.
- Social Security, Medicare, and other government agencies will not call or email you to ask for personal information.
- Links in emails can direct you to phony websites that look real, and then gather the login information you enter. Go directly to a website yourself, and log in there.
- No one will call or email you to “process” or “release” your stimulus payment. Such calls or emails are almost certainly a scam, and you definitely shouldn’t give them your information.
If you need information on Covid-19 prevention or treatments, a possible stimulus payment, or the status of Medicare benefits, call your trusted experts directly (such as your physician, your tax professional, or your Medicare representative). At this time, anyone who calls or emails you should be viewed with suspicion, and you should think twice before making payments or releasing information to strangers.