While many small businesses are feeling the impact of COVID-19, scammers are targeting consumers and small businesses—making these tough times, even harder.
The U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has collected around 8,000 complaints related to COVID-19 scams since the start of the year. Since then, consumers experienced a loss of $5 million and that number is expected to rise as more predators capitalize on the public’s fear of COVID-19.
Below are 7 of the most common scams and how to watch for any red flags.
Scammers are known to use your concerns related to COVID-19 to get bank and personal information from you.
Be cautious of websites, phone calls, emails, and text messages requesting confidential information. Only provide such information like your Social Security number, bank account number or credit card number if you have initiated a call to your financial institution. California Bank & Trust will never ask you for your personal information or log-in credentials in an email or text message.
Phishing scams can also include fraudsters impersonating business or health organizations to collect personal information or sell fake cures, supplies, test kits or vaccines for COVID-19. Avoid clicking on links and opening attachments, or pop-up screens from unknown sources. And, do not share your login or personal information with anyone.
If a COVID-19 breakthrough, like a vaccine, is discovered, it will be communicated through organizations like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or your state’s health department—not through online ads or unsolicited emails.
The stimulus packages passed by the government do not require a fee to receive funds and will not request your personal or account information. Furthermore, the U.S. Small Business Administration does not contact you regarding 7(a) loans, disaster loans or grants. If you're contacted by an individual claiming to represent the SBA, it's likely a scam.
These same thieves also resort to mailing bogus stimulus checks with the intention to fool the recipient into depositing or providing identifiable information.
If you received your latest tax return refund through direct deposit, the IRS will distribute your stimulus funds in the same manner—If you receive a ‘stimulus check’ as well, it’s likely from a scammer. If you’re expecting a paper check, verify the amount. A check for a higher amount than what’s expected or one that includes cents is a red flag,
Because scammers may even steal checks from mailboxes, you might consider purchasing a mailbox with a lock. You can also sign up for an account with the U.S. Postal Service, which will make it harder for someone to impersonate you and reroute your mail.
Because of the widespread impact of COVID-19, scammers are taking the opportunity to solicit donations for illegitimate organizations. Before you donate any funds, research the organization and recognize red flags like if an individual, charity, or business requesting donations through cash, wire transfer, gift cards, or through the mail.
It’s a fact that hackers are now using coronavirus tracking apps or clickbait websites to infect personal computers with malware. Avoid clicking on any sensationalized post or downloading apps from third-party app stores or social media.
Scammers are impersonating doctors and hospital staff as a tactic to fool people. They contact people via phone or email demanding payment for treating family or friends. Before acting, confirm with the family member or friend first, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
Some scammers will impersonate a bank or FDIC employees and falsely inform the victim that their bank deposits are at risk or there’s a restriction on their access to cash.
Remember, banks nor the FDIC will request your sensitive information like bank account information, credit, and debit card numbers, social security numbers, or passwords. Banks are the best place to house your funds because they are federally insured.
As a result of people searching for alternative investments in a bear market, fraudsters will take this opportunity to claim that products or services from publicly traded companies can detect or cure COVID-19.
If the opportunity seems suspicious, it probably is. Review the investment opportunity with a financial professional. They will be able to help you identify fraud and evaluate the best opportunities for your financial situation. [cite::171::cite] [cite::172::cite]