Millions of Americans are losing money to financial scams related to COVID-19. Here’s how to protect yourself from becoming part of that statistic.
As we navigate these unprecedented times, it’s important to be aware of what’s going on around us. While many people are doing good things, such as raising funds for families affected by COVID-19 or collecting food donations, there are unfortunately others who are taking this opportunity to be deceptive.
There are multiple ways in which scammers are capitalizing on the pandemic, and some of them may seem legitimate if you don’t examine them closely. Here are 7 ways that scammers are trying to steal your information to hack into your bank account, and even worse, steal your identity.
1.) Emails that contain links to ‘COVID-19 relief money.’ If you receive an email that says you’ve been selected to receive relief funds from the government, do not click on the link that’s attached to that email.
The federal government has only sent out one stimulus check, and if another gets passed by Congress, it will once again be automatically deposited into your account or mailed to you directly.
If you have any issues or concerns with stimulus checks, taxes, and so on, it’s imperative that you go directly to the correlating government website yourself. The federal government does not send out links via email to obtain personal and financial information.
If you’re ever in doubt, go to your web browser and find the government website that pertains to your financial questions (i.e. tax payments, stimulus money, etc.), then call one of the numbers that are listed on that site.
2.) Emails that claim you have been in contact with someone who was diagnosed with COVID-19. If you have truly been in contact with someone who has or had the virus, a contact tracer will contact you by phone. If you do happen to get an email from a real contact tracer, it will only be to inform you that they are planning on calling you or texting you.
If you receive an email, text, or phone call from a supposed contact tracer, here’s how you know there legit — they will never ask for financial information or personal information, such as your social security number or bank account number. If they do, that’s a major red flag, and proves that they aren’t a real contract tracer.
Unfortunately, financial scams are more prevalent than ever due to living in a digital world.
3.) A group or individual on social media who asks for a COVID-19 donation. If someone you don’t know sends you a private message asking you to donate money to a fund, don’t do it. Many people claim that they are raising money for ‘COVID relief,’ and are pocketing the donations and/or stealing credit card numbers.
If you personally know someone who has been impacted by the coronavirus, or you are a member of a trustworthy organization or church that is collected donations, then that’s different.
Unfortunately, we can’t always trust strangers, and if you do want to donate to a general fund, make sure that you have verified its legitimacy in multiple ways.
4.) Letters, emails, or DMs regarding ‘investment opportunities.’ If you receive any type of correspondence that tells you to invest in Bitcoin (or other products and companies) in order to take advantage of the economic downturn related to COVID, don’t fall for it. There are many social media advertisements and emails that look legitimate, but aren’t.
If you choose to get into investments at any time, it’s important to contact a local, trustworthy financial adviser who can guide you in that process.
5.) Phone calls and texts stating that you’re eligible for free services due to the pandemic. If someone contacts you and says that you’re being given six months of ‘Direct TV’ for free or an extended warranty on your car due to financial hardships from COVID, don’t respond to it.
While some companies are offering flexible payments, you have to contact them in order to set that up. Additionally, legitimate car-related services, phone and internet providers, and insurance companies don’ t give out services for free in exchange for personal information.
If you have any doubts, it’s important to go to that company’s website directly or to call them yourself to verify what you’ve been told.
6.) Letters or emails that state you can receive a COVID-19 ‘At-home testing kit’ for a discounted price. If you receive an email with a link to a website that provides do-it-yourself COVID testing, don’t click on the link. If you’re truly concerned that you are ill, you should contact your physician and/or get tested at their office or at a local pharmacy.
Websites that sell DIY testing kits may steal your credit or debit information, and on top of that, they may never send you the product that you purchased.
7.) Emails that state you have been selected to receive special products in a subscription program that are designed to treat COVID-19. If you get an email that says you’ve been chosen to be on a VIP list where you’ll receive information and products (such as supplements) that prevent or cure coronavirus, there are multiple reasons not to sign up.
First, you’ll be billed monthly, and if you ever try to cancel your subscription, you can guarantee that it’ll basically be impossible to do so. Second, you may never receive any products. Third, if you do receive products, they could be unsafe. Always do your research!
As you can see, there are (unfortunately) many ways in which scam artists are trying to take advantage of consumers during the pandemic. If you’re ever in doubt, go with your gut. If something seems off or doesn’t seem real, either ignore it or do careful research to verify whether or not what you’re being told is legitimate and true.
If you have elderly parents or grandparents, be sure to make them aware of this too. Together, we can help protect one another from danger, while focusing on the good in the world. And while it seems like the ‘good’ is hard to find these days, it’s still there — I promise.
All the best,
Tracy L. Hirsch, Louisville Bankruptcy Attorney
Need a free consultation? Text or call me at (502) 435-2593!