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Stay Protected From Coronavirus Scams

April 27, 2020

COVID-19 ScamsIn the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, identity theft scams and fraud are increasing. Since the beginning of the year, the Federal Trade Commission has received more than 18,000 coronavirus-related scam reports, and those scams have collectively cost Americans approximately $13.4 million.

Circumstances involving physical distancing, mass unemployment, and more are causing emotions to be high, which contributes to vulnerabilities—especially online. Attackers are trying to exploit the restlessness and uncertainty of life in quarantine. Scams surrounding Economic Impact Payments and Payroll Protection Program, as well as medical information, communications from fake Human Resource departments, and utility companies are among the most prevalent.

It’s important to stay alert and educated about the latest scams, by staying aware of the crafty ways scammers can obtain your personal information.

Here are some of the most common scams related to COVID-19:

Economic Impact Payments: Scammers are sending out texts and emails, as well as making phone calls posing as the IRS asking for bank accounts and other personal information. Keep in mind, the IRS will not send mobile texts, emails with unwanted attachments, or make direct phone calls asking for personal information. Unless you initiated the phone call, do not provide your Social Security or bank account numbers.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO): Fraudsters are sending out phishing attacks via email posting as the CDC or WHO. The FTC has some tips on how to recognize and avoid phishing attacks. Head to websites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus for latest information.

Medicare/Medicaid: Robocalls or emails touting COVID-19 kits are being circulated by fraudsters to obtain your bank account or Social Security Number. Please also be aware that one surefire sign of a scam is anyone asking you to pay a fee using a gift card or a wire transfer.

Social Security Benefits: Officials are warning of a letter circulating to Social Security beneficiaries saying benefits are being suspended due to COVID-19, unless they call a phone number listed in the letter. If you receive phone call of this nature, hang up immediately and report it to the Office of the Inspector General.

Charitable Organizations: Scammers are posing as well-known charitable organizations asking for donations to help the unemployed or those who have fallen on hard times. Be leery of door-to-door solicitors and outreach efforts which involve your offering personal information or sending payments.

The U.S. Census and Economic Impact Payments: The U.S. Census has nothing to do with stimulus funds being disbursed.

If you think you have been the target of a COVID-19 scam, report it here: ftc.gov/complaint, and contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (866) 720-5721 or disaster@leo.gov.

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