American actor Andy Griffith once said, “Who is going to believe a con artist? Everyone if she’s good.” Folks often fall for scams, not solely due to naivety, but because con artists can be convincing, assertive or appear trustworthy. Scammers have the habit of coming out of the woodworks in droves during periods of crises. Now, many unscrupulous people want to profit off the COVID-19 pandemic. These “bad apples” tend to prey on vulnerable members of society, including seniors, hoping to take advantage of their victim’s isolation, fear, and possible physical and/or cognitive decline. Scammers will use various ways to contact people –door to door, phone, texts, emails or via social media. Thus, it’s important to stay educated on the latest scams to protect oneself. Here are some current COVID-19 scams to watch out for:
- The lab coat scam – This scam involves people wearing lab coats who knock door-to-door pretending to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These imposters may offer “free” COVID-19 tests. Understand that the CDC does not knock on doors to offer free testing. Per the police department, this is a distraction scam to burglarize your home. Do not answer your door. Instead, call 911 to report the incident.
- Price gouging scam – This scam involves vendors who drastically increase prices for common goods such as toilet paper and services such as deliveries. Unscrupulous practices of this sort during times of emergencies are considered a violation of unfair or deceptive trade practices law and civil penalties and/or criminal penalties may apply. Check your state laws to file complaints.
- Fake website scam – This scam involves fake websites to sell bogus products. A scammer may send an email or reach out via text or social media. The goal is to steal your personal information while pretending to sell you products that do not exist. These websites may mimic real or trustworthy sites. It is best to make purchases from official websites you trust, rather than buy from links that are sent to you.
- Unsolicited text message/email scam – This scam involves “government benefits” related to COVID-19. These scams are designed to trick you into sharing personal information, such as bank account or credit card information or social security numbers. To play it safe, do not open strange emails or respond to solicitations. Always safeguard your valuable personal information. If an offer seems too good to be true, be wary. Should you need monetary advice, ask your financial advisor or accountant for guidance. Telltale signs of a scam may include misspellings, fake branding images, strange or complicated email addresses, grammar issues and more.
- Click on the link scam– This scam involves communications which asks you to click on a link. One trick involves asking people to click on a link to claim a $1,000 payment. Once you click on the link, your computer becomes infected with malware, the term given for various types of malicious software designed to harm or exploit a device, network, or service. This scam is often used by cybercriminals to force individuals into paying ransom. Be wise and understand that the government will not send you links to click. For additional layers of protection, make sure your computer is updated with the latest antivirus and anti-malware software.
- Charity scams –These scams often involve phone calls for fake charities or ones that exist but won’t ever get your donation. Never donate to a cold caller or unsolicited message. Don’t worry about hurting the caller’s feelings. Be firm and do not engage with the caller. Simply hang up the phone. When making donations, choose your charities wisely and donate directly through official websites. Watch your typing as misspellings can sometimes bring you to fake look-alike websites where you can encounter identity theft and more. Scam emails can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by visiting ftccomplaintassistant.gov If you fall victim to a financial scam, be sure to immediately change your passwords, secure your accounts (banking, credit cards, and so forth), and notify the three major credit bureaus of the scam. Financial online and in-person scams should also be reported to the police.