Examples of Covid-19 Scams
While all the "old" scams continue to operate, criminals are now exploiting people in new ways. Here are some examples:
Phony Social Security fees: In March, 2020, people began getting letters which appeared to be from the Social Security Administration. These letters told the recipients that they had to call a special phone number to protect their benefits from being suspended. When they called, the people were then given instructions to pay a fee by using a gift card or an instant wire transfer. NO government agency would ever ask you to pay a fee in order to get your benefits. Nor would they ask you to make a payment to them by using gift cards or instant wire transfers.
Illegal Fees and Taxes on Prize Money: Another scam is the enthusiastic promise from a caller that you have won a cash prize from some contest! According to the caller, the only thing you need to do is pay a fee or pre-pay the taxes, before you get the prize. Don't do it! If you actually win a sweepstakes prize, it is illegal for them to ask you to pay a fee before receiving your prize. If the prize is large enough, a legitimate company may send tax forms for you to complete, and they may withhold a portion of the prize money to cover the taxes. However, they are NOT allowed to require you to prepay the taxes by sending them money before they pay you the prize. That is a scam. If you send them money in advance, it is highly likely you will not receive the prize!
Fake ads for non-existent products: Many people have seen ads or received promotional emails that advertise products which are currently hard to find, including facemasks, disposable gloves, disinfectant wipes, and hand sanitizer. People have placed orders for these items and given the advertiser their credit card information, only to never receive the ordered product. Place your orders with legitimate companies, only. Check out companies online or with the Better Business Bureau, especially if you have never heard of them before, or if you are unsure if they are legitimate. In addition, even if you are purchasing from a reputable company, make sure you are not overpaying for the items. Some sellers are asking buyers to pay as much as ten times more than what the items sold for before the the pandemic.
Phony emails: If you receive an unexpected email from a friend, relative or co-worker asking you to send money or gift cards to them or anyone else, do not do it unless you contact that person separately and confirm the request. Many people and companies are discovering that their email accounts have been cloned or compromised, and scammers are using a fake account to request money and gift cards from your contacts. This scam even happened to the minister of our church, who had to send out a disclaimer to the members of our church to let everyone know he is not asking anyone to send him money or gift cards!
Useless Covid-19 tests, cures, and "vaccines": In a number of locations, crooks have set up phony Covid-19 testing sites where people have been charged as much as $240 for fake tests. Other scammers have offered cures or vaccines which are ineffective, unproven, or dangerous. Check with your healthcare provider before being tested for Covid-19, or before you try any cure or vaccine. Currently, there are no approved cures or vaccines available to the public, except those being tried on hospitalized patients, or as part of a medical trial.
The best way to protect yourself from the virus is to avoid contact with people who do not live in your home. When you are around other people, wear a mask in public and expect others to do the same. Limit the amount of time you spend in businesses and other indoor locations where the virus could be lingering in the air. The key is to keep your potential "viral load" as small as possible.
Remember the General Rules to Protect Yourself from Scams
Criminals are constantly coming up with new ways to get your money and/or your credit card information. Before you become a victim, remember some basic rules.
No government agency will ever randomly call you and ask for gift cards or credit card information to pay a bill or fee. The federal government and most state and local agencies will always contact people first by U.S. mail. They will rarely contact you in any other way, unless you first call them and ask for a callback.
If a stranger calls and asks for money, hang up. If they represent a charity which interests you, ask them to mail you information, so you can read it at your leisure. Then, before making a donation to a new charity, check them out through the Better Business Bureau or Charity Navigator. If you decide to support them, go to their website directly to make the donation. Do not give out your credit card information over the phone. Do not purchase gift cards and read the numbers on the back of the cards to anyone over the phone. Do not make instant wire transfers to strangers. Take your time and check things out.
Do not fall for fake news stories about "amazing cures" and treatments for Covid-19 or any other serious illness. Check with your personal physician before trying something you have seen advertised online. Even some televangelists have gotten in trouble for promoting products which were either useless or dangerous. Do not give anyone your hard-earned money for something which will not help you, and might even harm you.
With so many people struggling financially at the moment, many of them are desperate to believe anything they read online or are told over the phone. Stay vigilant and skeptical. Take your time before making any financial decisions. Be very, very reluctant to give out credit card information or let go of your money. You earned it. Make sure you keep it. The longer this disease has us in its grips, the more we will all need to be cautious with our money.
If your retirement planning needs to be updated because of changes to your financial situation as a result of Covid-19 or unemployment, you may want to get the handy workbook, "Retirement by Design." It will help you get back on track. (Ad)
To learn more about common medical problems as we age, Medicare, Social Security, financial planning, where to retire and more, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of the page to find links to hundreds of additional helpful articles.
Disclosure: This blog may contain affiliate links. If you decide to make a purchase from an Amazon ad, I'll make a small commission to support this blog, at no extra cost to you.
You are reading form the blog: http://www.baby-boomer-retirement.com
Photo credit: Pixabay via Google