The pandemic is already a big challenge for a lot of people but sad to say, there are also financial scams people need to look out for. There are scrupulous individuals and organizations that are out to take advantage of other people. With the COVID19 pandemic out there, they just have a new angle to work on.
The health crisis is already putting a lot of people on the edge. As more and more people get infected, it gets closer and closer to home. The CDC reports that over 5.6 million people have been infected with COVID19 in the country. In the past, it might just be numbers and people you do not know. Now with the spread of the virus, acquaintances, friends, colleagues, schoolmates, and even your own family and friends are getting sick.
The close it is to you, the more stressful it becomes. You begin to juggle several things all at the same time. The health of your family, your finances, your safety, job security, and many others. Once you begin to combine all these, you start to stress out and might be prone to financial scams. The more concerns you have, the less you can thoroughly check the information coming your way.
What you can do is familiarize yourself with the various scam methods thieves use. Once you can identify these scams, you will be able to avoid them early on. This will help lower the chances of being a victim and potentially losing hard-earned money during the pandemic. Here are some of them worth looking into.
Financial scams over text messaging
The idea with text scams is that they want you to click on a link in order for them to install a malicious cone on your phone. The link could also bring you to a seemingly legitimate webpage meant to get sensitive information from you. It can ask for your basic information as well as social security numbers and even passwords.
Some of the most common text messages would have something to do with offering a cure for COVID19 or scaring you that you need to be tested. If you hear about a potential cure, you might jump on board without validating the call. Some messages also revolve around scammers posing as members of the FCC Financial Care Center and giving out relief packages for COVID19. Other messages you might receive might make you believe it is from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services stating you need to click a link for mandatory testing.
The Federal Communications Commission shares that they are not giving out a relief program for consumers. This is likely a phishing scam to get banking details from consumers. Norton shares that phishing sites exploit public fear in the middle of this pandemic. The same goes for other links where they give you a link to a legitimate-looking site. The best thing to do in these cases is to reach out to the offices being represented and ask about the content of the message you received. This can help you get out of financial scams.
Robocall scams on COVID19
If you suddenly receive a call but seem to hear a recorded message on the other end, that is a robocall. Scammers are using this service to entice consumers on offering home testing kits for the virus and even financial aid to people. Some would even go as far as selling insurance using the virus as a way to scare people into getting one.
There are even calls pretending to be coming from the World Health Organization soliciting personal information and even money from people. This is one of the financial scams you need to be aware of. Part of the supposed offer of a free test kit is getting personal and health insurance information from people. One sneaky approach scammers use is they identify people with diabetes and offer the test kit with a free monitor for their sickness.
There are even some robocalls telling people that they have been exposed to a person who is sick or that there is an outbreak in their area. All to make them buy a test kit they are selling and even get their personal information for identity theft. When you get these types of calls, hang up and reach out to legitimate sources of information.
Contact tracing scams
This is a method used in light of the COVID19 virus where they try to limit the number of people exposed to the virus. Once the government identifies a confirmed patient, they identify the people that the patient had been in close contact with. This helps identify and even limit the exposure of other people with the virus.
Safe to say that because of the immediate need to reach out to a lot of people, contact tracing can catch you off guard and this is being exploited by scammers. They know that there is a health crisis and that people are already anxious and on the edge. Once told that you could be sick, this can rattle you and prevent you from thinking straight.
You might grab the first chance you get on getting tested which they are offering. And in the process, you give up personal information trying to get tested. While you are not thinking straight because you start feeling afraid for your health, they can begin to take control of your finances. They can take your money from your bank account or even charge payments on your card. When you get these types of calls, you need to calm down and contact government agencies to verify the information you are getting.
Financial Scams targeting older Americans
One of the most vulnerable sectors is retired Americans who are relying on pension and Social Security benefits in retirement. As such, when they receive a call or text message informing them that their benefits and pension will be suspended for COVID19 reasons, it gets them on the hook. The last thing they need is for their source of income affected at this time.
There are retirees as well who are still looking for ways to increase their nest egg and are open to investment ideas. There are fake stock offers from nonexistent companies. Then they are promoted as poised to take the market by storm with COVID19 research. This could lure retirees into investing. Not knowing that these are bogus businesses and they do not really exist.
The “grandparent scam” has also been modified to the one that is pandemic related. In all these, you need to always take a step back and reassess the information you are getting. Put down the phone and verify the call. If you believe a relative needs help, you give them a call. Make sure that they are really the ones reaching out to you.
Tips to avoid COVID19 financial scams
Here are a few reminders how you can keep safe during these times.
- Legitimate calls will not ask for your personal information. They already have it on hand and will be the ones to verify what they have.
- If you are unnecessarily being pressured to make a decision or a purchase at that instant, you need to think twice.
- Never give out any personal information especially banking details over the phone to people you do not know.
- Be wary of links being sent through messages because phishing sites are meant to look like legitimate websites.
- Contact tracers will be concerned with health details and not your financial information.
- If you get an offer for vaccines and medicines, verify these drugs with the U.S. Food & Drug Administration.
There are a lot of financial scams even before the pandemic hit but the current health crisis makes it even worse. A lot of people can easily fall prey to the scam tactics of thieves. They scare people who are already feeling anxious and scared. Always be on the lookout for potential scam tactics and verify the information you get.