by Rob Vogel
4 Coronavirus Scams to Watch Out For
COVID-19 has changed nearly every aspect of life for Americans and the global economy. During uncertain times like these, some people try to take advantage of the chaotic circumstances. Almost $13 million was lost due to COVID-19-related scams, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), which emphasizes the importance of staying vigilant and aware. We’ve identified 4 common Coronavirus scams and red flags for you to look out for.
Amid the confusion of the current situation, if you have questions about your financial situation, please do not hesitate to contact us at Lucas Capital.
Stimulus Check Scams
As many people are eligible for stimulus checks from the government, it is important to be aware of potential scams. In some cases, third parties might claim to offer or expedite stimulus funds. There are no non-government entities with faster access to government stimulus related to COVID-19. Claims of “early” access to stimulus are illegitimate.
Other common tactics used to obtain your private information might include phone calls or emails from organizations posing as federal agencies. Be wary of callers that claim to be an IRS agent and ask for bank information to verify the destination of your stimulus payment. Callers might also ask you to sign a check or provide personal information (e.g. Social Security number). They will make your situation sound urgent and pressure you to act quickly, or even threaten a delay in your payments if you don’t provide your personal information. It is also important to note that the official term for “stimulus” is “economic-impact payment,” which will be used by official government agencies.
The IRS and most other government agencies will not call you to request personal information, and there are no non-government entities with exclusive access to government stimulus. The IRS contacts individuals by mail, which can be verified if you ever call the government agency directly.
COVID-19 Vaccine and Testing Scams
A cure or vaccine for COVID-19 has not yet been identified. Some organizations are trying to collect personal information by promising home kits and drive-through testing capabilities in exchange for cash payment, Social Security information and/or Medicare billing information. However, any third party claiming that they have access to a cure or vaccine is fraudulent.
As we have seen and heard of many different ways in which the virus might be cured, it is important to ensure that any dietary supplements, medical devices or drugs are approved by the FDA.
Financial Relief Scams
As the unemployment rate continues to increase, many individuals will have to rely on economic relief to cover critical expenses like rent, mortgages and common bills. Scammers target consumers by pretending to offer economic relief programs, especially student loans and credit card assistance.
The illegitimate organization might pose as a student loan company representative and offer student loan payment suspension for a small fee. Though the U.S. government has offered leniency for student loan debt, beware of unsolicited offers outside of your lender. These schemes attempt to steal your money, personal information and card information.
Credit cards are also targets that scammers use to obtain personal information. If you’re looking for payment assistance, contact your service provider directly, using contact information from their official site or official correspondence.
Also, be cautious of any “free” financial advice or wealth management services. Working with a fee-only fiduciary financial advisor is the only way to ensure a financial advisor has a legal responsibility to put your best interests first. There is no one-size-fits-all solution to financial planning and no miracle investment strategy that will allow you to reap any money you lost immediately.
Throughout the pandemic, we’ve seen multitudes of organizations asking for donations and financial help. Some illegal charities might play off of the names of those that are legitimate, and could have fully functioning websites, email lists and phone representatives.
If you are interested in donating to a Coronavirus-related charity, be sure to do your research. Take your time and verify a charitable organization using Charity Navigator or GuideStar. Whether you donate as an individual or on behalf of your small business, you can make charitable contributions safely by being vigilant and thorough.
Spot Common Red Flags
While the types of scams we’ve identified is not an exhaustive list, there are various red flags to look out for when someone is asking for personal information or donations. Red flags might include any request for private information via email or phone call, as well as unfamiliar websites.
To keep your finances safe, never provide your bank account, Social Security information or other personal information over the phone or on websites you don’t recognize. If you are ever in doubt about a situation, seek verification from official sources like the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Federal Trade Commission before acting. You can also talk with a financial advisor you trust.
If you have any questions regarding your finances, please do not hesitate to contact a financial advisor at Lucas Capital.