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COVID-19 Online Scams
According to Google, "Scammers are taking advantage of the increase in COVID-19 communications by disguising their scams as legitimate messages about the virus." The COVID-19 pandemic has provided scammers with new opportunities to defraud consumers. Alongside emails, scammers can also use automated calls, text messages, and malicious websites to reach you.
In times like these; rising oil prices, runaway inflation, wars and rumours of wars, it is only common sense to be on guard and leery. Be wary of anything related to your money, that may seem unusual, these days.
Common types of COVID-19 scams include:
Fake health organizations. Scammers pose as health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to offer cures, tests, or other COVID-19 information.
Websites that sell fake products. These websites offer face masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and other high demand products that never arrive. Buy products only from known marketers.
Fake Romance Scams Do not send money to someone you have never met in person. According to the FTC, people have lost $1.3 billion to romance scams in the last five years, $547 million of which came (or left) in 2021. It is a steep jump from 2017, when losses from such scams totaled $87 million. 56,000 romance scams were reported to the FTC in 2021. It is NOT Love when someone you barely know is asking for a wire transfer to Yours Truly.
Bogus government sources. These despicable thieves will claim to issue updates and payments on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or local tax authority. Of course they will want you to send money in the form of procesing fees. Most often, they will send a courier service to your address in order to pick up a certified money order to pay your fees in advance.
Fraudulent financial offers. Scammers may pose as banks, debt collectors, or investors with offers designed to steal your financial information. In order to verify your identity for a huge cash giveaway, they will want your banking information; social security number, routing number, account number, and even your PIN number. DO NOT GIVE PERSONAL INFORMATION TO ANYONE!
Fake nonprofit donation requests. Many people want to donate to charitable causes in order to help the less fortunate with disaster relief. This provides an excellent opportunity for scammers to set up fake nonprofits, hospitals, and other organizations to collect funds. Donate directly through a reputable non profit website instead of clicking on a link you receive by email or text.
If you think you have been scammed, or when something smells fishy to you, change your passwords immediately. Delete any questionable software, and contact your local police department... BEFORE you become the next scam victim.
Taking steps to protect your personal information can help minimize the risks of identity theft. But what if a thief gets your information anyway? Here are some of the ways thieves might use your stolen information and signals which mean you may need to take action.
An identity thief could use your information to get credit or service in your name.
How to spot it: Get your free credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com. Review it for accounts you did not open, or for inquiries you do not recognize. A new credit card, a personal loan, or a car loan will appear as a new account. A new cell phone plan or utility service — like water, gas, or electric — will show up as an inquiry.
An identity thief could use your credit card or take money out of your bank account.
How to spot it: Check your credit card or bank statement when you get it. Look for purchases or withdrawals you did not make. Added advice: Sign up to get text or email alerts from your credit card and/or bank whenever there is a new transaction. This could help you spot unauthorized or fraudulent activity on your account.
An identity thief could steal your tax refund or use your Social Security number to get a job, or work.
How to recognize it: A notice from the IRS that there is more than one tax return filed in your name is likely a sign of tax identity theft. Also a red flag will be a notice that you have income from an employer you do not know.
An identity thief might also use your health insurance to get medical care.
How to spot it: Review your medical bills and Explanation of Benefits statements for services you did not get. This may be a sign of medical identity theft.
An identity thief could use your information to file a claim for unemployment benefits.
How to spot it: A notice from your state unemployment office or employer about unemployment benefits that you did not apply for could be a sign of fraud. If you discover any signs that someone unknown is using your personal information, find out what to do at IdentityTheft.gov.
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