During difficult times like the one we are all getting through right now, there are people that play on the public’s fear about the coronavirus pandemic and do harm than help. I have zero tolerance for that and would like to talk about some scams that you need to be aware of now and what you can do to protect yourself from becoming a victim of a fraudster or a scammer.
Cashing Bad Checks Scams
Maybe a week or two ago, a client of mine reached out to me and said that some fraudster tried to cash two bad checks against his business checking account. He is more of a private person and I know how serious he is when it comes to security and protection of his personal data. He works with 4-5 clients on a consistent basis so it was a big surprise for us how this could happen. Fortunately, Chase identified both attempts as fraud and immediately put restrictions on the existing accounts. He had to open a new business account with new numbers but luckily no damage was done.
Social Security Benefits Scams
There are a lot of scammers calling or mailing elderly people who are currently receiving social security benefits notifying them of the potential suspension of the benefits due to SSA field office closures unless the beneficiaries call the phone number referenced in the letter. What happens next you know. Scammers want to get their personal information and have them pay for the promise of continued benefits payments. Needless to say, that social security benefits are not affected by the pandemic in any way. So don’t get hooked by this scam/
COVID-19 Economic Impact Payments
Another type of scam involved stimulus checks and COVID-19 economic impact payments. In this scam the scammers want to get your personal data and for a fee promise to expedite the payment. Again, pure fraudulence. Only the IRS will disburse the payment and it should go directly to your bank account.
Fake Vaccinations & Cure Claims
One of the most recent scams involved a fake coronavirus testing station. Scammers put the station and were using fake tests to test people. Capitalizing on the fear they made people pay for this useless testing. The same thing they try to do with online offers for vaccinations and other cure claims for the coronavirus. So, keep your eyes open.
Be wary of fake charities and solicitation for donations. Scammers aggressively taking advantage of people who are wholeheartedly trying to help others during the pandemic. They give names that sound a lot like real charities and who don’t research the charity “donate” money to who knows who.
There are plenty of investment-related scams. The Securities and Exchange Commission already warned investors that there are fake internet promotions and social media campaigns claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or even cure coronavirus. Based on these statements scammers claim that the stock of these companies is significantly undervalued and will increase in value as a result. The promotions usually come in the form of “research reports” that you need to buy and endorse unknown microcap stocks. Microcap stocks are usually very small companies whose stock price is easier to manipulate due to limited information on products, finances, and management. A common scheme used by fraudsters is called “pump-and-dump”. By spreading false and misleading information fraudsters can pump up the stock price and create a visual appearance that the company is doing well. This increase in the stock price causes regular investors to purchase the stock too and increase the price even further. What happens next is pretty clear – the fraudsters dump their own share before the hype ends leaving individual investors with potentially significant losses and illiquid assets on hand. The Security and Exchange is closely monitoring such situations but you need to do your homework too.
There are also undelivered in-demand products scams, robocalls, fake emails and phishing that you need to be aware of. In each scam, scammers are trying to steal your valuable personal information, such as Social Security number, bank account information, and logins and passwords.
How To Protect Yourself From Fraudsters And Scammers?
Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and your loved from scams and fraud in the future:
- If you are dealing with a government agency, remember the government will never ask you to pay anything upfront to get any type of help. The government will never call you to ask for your credit card number, bank account number, or social security number. So never share your personal and financial information with a “government” worker.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t recognize. If you click on the unknown link you may download a virus.
- Always use anti-virus or anti-malware software and make sure your virus databases are up to date. Also, make sure to set up multi-factor authentication for all your accounts.
- Do your homework and carefully research the investment before you invest your money. During any crisis, if something seems to be too good to be true, then this is probably an indication of a red flag.
- Verify a charity organization or crowdfunding sites through which you are considering donating. Never donate your money in the form of cash or by gift cards. Also, never wire money!
- If you receive a phone from a “representative” of a company your work with and have an account with, listen to the tone, style, and content. If it is not what you are used to in communications with this organization, immediately hang up. Then, call the company and notify them.
- Sign up for consumer alerts and be on top of recent or developing scams. Remember, forewarned is forearmed.
Scams and fraud are on the rise and it’s not going to go away anytime soon. If you suspect that you’ve become a victim of a scam do you part an help other by filing a claim with the Federal Trade Commission or the Securities and Exchange Сommission as soon as possible.