The COVID-19 pandemic has likely caused great disruption and stress in your life. Worries about your health, job, family and finances can distract you from paying attention to other dangers. Unfortunately, fraud artists and hackers thrive when you have your guard down, cleverly disguising scams as legitimate programs.
Five common COVID-19 scams
- Fake COVID-19 in-home tests, vaccines and cures
Scammers’ COVID-19 “treatments” include products like air filter systems that remove potentially “infectious air” from people’s homes. Currently, however, there is no cure or vaccine for COVID-19. Effective tests are still not widely available, and those that exist can’t be delivered to your home. Consult the Centers for Disease Control website, your state or county health department website or your health care provider for credible COVID-19 information.
- Charity scams
Tough times can bring out the best in us, like a greater desire to make donations for those in need. Unfortunately, scammers take advantage of that generosity with fake charities designed to look like real ones.
- “Person in need” scams
Beware of imposters contacting you and posing as a close friend or family member in distress and in need of money ASAP. Watch out for requests to send cash by mail or buy gift cards. Be wary when you are pressured to act quickly and prevented from asking questions.
- Employment/Debt Resolution Scams
Many of us now face business closures, layoffs and reduced work hours, making us fearful about our financial future. Scammers prey on these fears through bogus “work from home” opportunities, student loan “help” and other “debt relief.” Look out for upfront/hidden fees, outrageous promises of debt forgiveness, and an alluring income/salary that usually comes with a vague job description. In the end, these companies fail to make good on their promises, and you are left in an even worse situation.
- Virtual Meeting/Email Phishing Scams
With so many people now working from home, we will likely see emails with links to recorded phone messages or meetings imitating Zoom or other services. Only accept meeting invitations from people you know. If you don’t know the sender, delete it immediately. If someone you do know sends an unexpected invite, contact that person and ask if they created the meeting.
Tips to protect yourself from any scam
The Federal Communications Commission has several tips to protect yourself:
- Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers or any others that appear suspicious.
- Never share your personal or financial information via email, text message or phone.
- Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
- Know that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money. Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering or responding.
- Do not click any links in a text message or email. If a friend/family member sends you an email or text with a link that seems out of character for them, call the sender to make sure it is legitimate.
- Call a charity or visit its actual website before donating.
- If you are a victim of a scam that required you to disclose personal information (i.e. Social Security or bank account number), visit IdentityTheft.gov. This website provides resources, streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process.
And always remember: if it sounds too good to be true, it is.
Contact us to reduce financial stress
If you are experiencing financial stress due to COVID-19 or any other reason, LSS Financial Counseling can help. Our financial counselors will review your situation with you and provide trusted, practical advice. Call us at 888.577.2227 for your free, confidential session, or get all your support online at your convenience.
Author Ray McCoy is a Certified Financial Counselor with LSS Financial Counseling.