How to Avoid COVID-19 Related Financial Scams


Reminder: True Sky will never call or email asking for personal information.

Scammers don’t wait for opportunities to present themselves before acting, but they are more than ready to amp up their scam efforts under the platform of COVID-19. Presently, there are several scams in existence related to the global pandemic.

The elderly are often targeted in financial scams, and right now, with most of our nation’s elderly population sheltering at home, they are at even greater risk of these scams. Being isolated can feel lonely, and a seemingly innocent phone call can have grave financial repercussions if the person on the other end of that call is a scammer.

To keep you safe in the wake of these financial scams related to COVID-19, here are some ways to avoid scams.

Scammers communicate by email. Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.

Scammers send emails related to a host of different topics-- claims of vaccines, test kits deliverable to your home, or cures related to COVID-19. Claims have also been made regarding air filters designed to remove the virus from the air in your home. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has confirmed all these scams, and that scammers are attempting to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to work. These purchases could result in the loss of your personal financial information/resources.

Be on the lookout for emails claiming to be from the CDC or any other experts stating to have information about COVID-19. If you want to know more about what’s going on with COVID-19 in the world, you can check out the CDC or WHO websites.

The easiest way to stay safe if you receive an email making these claims (or any other too good to be true claims): do not click links included in those emails. These links could download viruses onto your device.

If you don’t already have security software on your computer or have your phone set to automatically update software, consider changing computer and phone settings to automatically update and installing antivirus software on your computer.

Scammers pose as charities. Do your research, and never give money over the phone to someone you don't know.

If a supposed charity calls you and asks for donations, be wary. During this major event, many people are looking for ways to help. Scammers know this and are using the pandemic to take advantage of you, going so far as to even use names that sound like the names of real charities.

The easiest way to stay safe is to do your research before giving money to any charity. If you would like to donate to an authentic charity, pay using a credit card, which often offers more protection than a debit card. Never pay by wire transfer or gift card (sure signs of scammer requests). If you receive a follow up call regarding a supposed pledge you have made but don’t recall making, this is a scam.

Outside of charities, scammers will claim to be a friend of someone you know, claiming to be in desperate need of help, asking you to send money. Unless you can verify this story with your relative or friend, it is a scam. Do not give this person your money or information.

Scammers use social media. Scroll on

Scammers utilize social media to promote “charity” scams-- helpful tips to decipher which charities/fundraisers/gofundme’s are authentic can be found here. Some red flags include grammar or spelling mistakes, or images reused from another news source.

Be suspicious of any “investment opportunities” you spy on social media. The SEC has warned to be cautious of claims made that “products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.” The potential for fraud in these types of claims is high.

Scammers communicate via text. Ignore and report.

A text message stating Social Security will suspend or decrease your benefits related to COVID-19 is a scam. Any message stating this (text, email, phone call, etc.) is a scam and should be reported to the SSA Inspector General.

Any text or email about checks from the government should be ignored (and reported).

Remember, no government agency will call/email/text you asking for payment or threatening to take action against you. If you receive communication like this, it is assuredly a scam.

Hang up on those robocalls and unsolicited phone calls.

If you receive an unsolicited phone call and have any unease about it, hang up. Never provide credit card or financial/personal information to anyone on the other end of an unsolicited phone call.

Red flags for unsolicited phone calls include:

  • Feeling pressured to act now
  • Receiving an unexpected phone call, one you did not initiate yourself
  • Being promised something too good to be true
  • Being asked for money or personal account information in a conversation you didn’t initiate

If you receive a robocall (a phone call that begins with a prerecorded message), hang up. Do not press any numbers. Your phone provider may offer call-blocking tools. Also, report the call. This helps the FTC fight scams.

Robocalls trying to sell you services or reduce your debt are illegal. Even so, it only takes a few people accepting these calls for scammers to make the money they’re after. Scammers use robocalls to make money by getting your bank account number or PIN or stealing important information like your SSN.

Robocalls and unsolicited calls are never worth the risk- don’t waste any time on these calls, simply hang up or if you don’t recognize the number calling you, don’t answer at all.

Conclusion

Just say no. If you are contacted and your personal information is requested-- whether that is your SSN, bank account information, Medicare ID number, or any other personal identification information, do not give out that information. You can report scams here.

For further information on COVID-19 related scams, check out this post from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.