Beware of COVID-19 Scams
During this time of worldwide crisis when most of us are focused on our safety, scammers are focused on ways to exploit the public. This is especially true for those looking for help during this time and for those who are expecting potential COVID-19 relief funds. From fictitious websites mimicking the CDC, WHO, and even fictitious coronavirus maps that install malware on your device, the scam artists use any and all forms of communication available to them. This includes telephone, letters, email, faxes, social media, and messaging apps. The following are some of the ways that criminals are attempting to take advantage of the public.
Relief Check Scams
Criminals now seem to be moving in on those desperately looking for relief by promising that they can get relief funds delivered much faster or that you must “sign up” to receive a relief check. They then ask for bank account information, SSN, DOB, and more. In the end, they are the ones who are trying to steal your identity and take any funds you may have, including any relief funds you might receive. Understand: No one will have early access to the money. Further, if needed, you can set up direct deposit of your check by communicating only with the IRS at irs.gov/coronavirus. You only need to do this if you did not give the IRS your bank information on your 2018 or 2019 return. In the coming weeks, the IRS will be setting up an online form available through irs.gov/coronavirus. The IRS will never request this in response to an email, text, or call.
Some criminals are utilizing illegal robocalls to trick individuals into providing account numbers, card numbers, and even their PINs or SSNs. What is the best response when receiving one of these calls? Do not say anything and do not enter any information, simply hang up. You may also report the call at ftc.gov/complaint.
False Information Regarding NCUA Coverage
Some scam artists are spreading false information to trick individuals into thinking that they need to take their money out of their credit union or bank account. This is done by leading them to believe that they may lose their money and that they need to withdraw their cash and invest it in digital currency or items that they may purchase from the criminals. This is simply not the case. All funds deposited at Liberty Financial are federally insured by the NCUA up to $250,000 per share owner, for each account ownership category. If you would like more information on this, feel free to contact us!
Fictitious Coronavirus Maps & Phishing Attacks
Fraudulent COVID-19 maps are being generated to mimic legitimate maps in an attempt to trick individuals into downloading malware onto their device. Once on the device, usernames, passwords, and other sensitive information can be compromised. This is true of phishing emails that are received as well. Spoofed senders and subjects such as “COVID-19 Update for Your Hometown from the CDC” are tailored to catch your attention and get you to act. This usually involves clicking a link or downloading an attachment. Avoid clicking on or downloading anything from any email, unless you were legitimately expecting it and are sure of its source.
During this time of need, many kindhearted people want to give back to their communities or help abroad by donating to charities. However, criminals mimic legitimate charity names OR they create a charity and never provide the funds to those who need help. It is advisable to only donate to charities that you know and trust to ensure that the money goes to help those in need, rather than to finance criminal activities.
During these times, cleaning, household, medical and health supplies are in great demand and can be hard to find. This is yet another area where criminals try to profit from the public. They do so by setting up an account as an online seller and claiming to have products that are in high demand. However, after weeks or months it is discovered that they never had the products and the merchandise that you purchased is never delivered.
Ways to avoid being scammed:
- Never provide your SSN, bank account information or any other private info to someone requesting it by phone or email — Especially if it’s in order to provide relief funds or in response to a robocall. This can lead to ID theft.
- Purchase household, cleaning, and medical supplies only from sources that you trust.
- Donate to known charities.
- Never click on unknown links or download attachments in emails that you are not expecting or you cannot identify the true source. It is best to verify the source first by calling the sender, before clicking on or downloading the files if you were not expecting the email.
- Set up two-factor authentication on your personal email accounts to avoid someone intercepting your email.