We have all witnessed countless acts of heroism during our country’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic—from the healthcare workers caring for our friends and family to the delivery drivers and grocery workers who keep us well supplied. Belmont Village’s own employees have risen to the challenge, helping our residents stay safe while bringing small moments of joy to their lives.
Sadly, there are those who have looked at this situation as an opportunity to use fear about the virus to try to scam the most vulnerable among us, including seniors. According to AARP, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has logged more than 20,600 fraud complaints related to the outbreak. These scams are often quite creative and can be difficult to spot.
There are a few things to look out for in order to detect scams. Here are tips that will help you protect yourself and your family from falling victim to a coronavirus scam and two important questions to ask yourself, to evaluate if you’ve been contacted by a scammer.
Two Questions to Help Detect Scams
The amount of information we’ve heard about the coronavirus can be overwhelming, and with so many updates about the virus it can be hard to keep the facts straight. If you are contacted with any offer or request for information relating to the coronavirus, first ask yourself if the source who has contacted you is trusted. If you recognize the source, ensure that the phone number or website matches the organization’s official contact information or hang up and call the official customer service number to verify the call’s validity. If it is a robocall (an automated message or recording), hang up immediately.
The next question to ask yourself may be the most important. Are you being asked to share personal information, such as a credit card number, bank account numbers, or your social security number? Government agencies rarely or never ask for sensitive information over the phone. If you are asked for this information, don’t respond and ask a family member or friend for help in determining if it’s a scam. Asking yourself these two questions can help you spot scams at any time—not only coronavirus-related criminals.
Tips for Spotting Coronavirus Scams
There are a few trends that have popped up among scams that are specific to the coronavirus. These scams most often aim to capitalize on our fear about the virus. Here are a few of the most common coronavirus scams.
- Unsolicited Calls: Scammers may claim to be from your state’s unemployment office or the social security administration. Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government. Never share bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers or other personal information with an unsolicited caller, text or email.
- Vaccines: Ignore online offers and ads for coronavirus vaccinations. As of May 2020, there are no products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.1
- Test Kits: Be wary of ads for test kits. The FDA recently announced approval for one home test kit, which requires a doctor’s order. If you think you need to be tested, contact your local public health department and your primary care physician. Visit the CDC’s website about testing for COVID-19.
- Robocalls: Hang up on robocalls. Robocalls are easily detectable—an automated voice or recording will play when you answer the phone. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
- Email Scams: Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like gov and cdc.gov to get the latest accurate information.
- Beware of online requests for personal information. A coronavirus-themed email that seeks personal information like your Social Security number or login information is a phishing scam. Legitimate government agencies won’t ask for that information. Never respond to the email with your personal data.2
- Watch for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors, it’s likely a sign you’ve received a phishing email (phishing is a cybercrime when a person is contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone posing as a legitimate institution to lure individuals into providing sensitive data).
- Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Greetings like “Dear sir or madam” signal an email is not legitimate.
- Avoid emails that insist you act now. Phishing emails often try to create a sense of urgency or demand immediate action. The goal is to get you to click on a link and provide personal information — right now.
- Delete any emails that match the above descriptions.
- Donations: Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money. Discuss donations and major financial decisions with family members.
We are all exercising caution when it comes to conducting out “real” lives—by wearing masks in public, social distancing, washing our hands frequently. We should all also exercise caution when it comes to our “online” lives. We hope these tips will help you stay safe in the online world.
Last Updated May 20, 2020