Scams on the rise during COVID-19
During national or global disasters, many criminals use this as an opportunity to prey on people when they’re the most vulnerable. As the coronavirus continues to wreak havoc, scams are on the rise, too. It’s critical to be vigilant and make yourself and your family members aware of these schemes, so you and your loved ones don’t fall victim to fraud.
With unemployment rapidly increasing, this leaves many people desperate for any job they can find. Unfortunately, this is the perfect opportunity for criminals to use this to their advantage. Fraudsters are posting work-from-home jobs that promise easy money with no effort—your first red flag. These scammers often communicate through web-based services, like Gmail or Yahoo.
Their ultimate goal is to use you as a money mule—allowing others to use your bank account or conduct financial transactions on your behalf. Not only is this illegal, but this also puts you in financial jeopardy. These criminals could have access to your bank account and completely drain it. If a job posting seems too good to be true, it probably is. Listen to your gut—if someone who claims to be an employer is asking you to transfer money or is asking you to open bank accounts in your name for their business, contact authorities immediately.
People claiming to be overseas and needing help
Watch out for people claiming to be overseas and needing help. Criminals are pretending to be a member of the military or a U.S. citizen working or quarantined abroad, asking potential victims to send money on behalf of themselves or a loved one battling the coronavirus. Fraudsters are also claiming to work for a medical equipment business or charity asking people to send money on their behalf. These requests are typically seen in the form of emails, phone calls, or private messages. If someone you don’t know is contacting you for money, chances are, it’s not legitimate.
Criminals making these claims cause serious damage. Not only does it harm you and your family, but it also harms people who need financial help and organizations that heavily rely on monetary donations. When donating, never pay with cash, gift card, or by wiring money.
Relief payment scams and phony emails
As relief payments roll out, many scammers are taking advantage of this opportunity as well. The most important thing to know is that you do not have to do anything to receive your stimulus payment. As long as you filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, you’ll receive a payment. So, if someone claims you must “sign up” to receive your relief payment, or calls asking for personal information, like your social security number or bank information, that person is a scammer.
Also, watch out for phishing emails from people claiming to work for the government. People will claim to be from the CDC or WHO offering information pertaining to the coronavirus. Don’t click links from sources you don’t know. Visit coronavirus.gov or usa.gov/coronavirus for official, reliable information.
What to do if you think someone is trying to commit fraud
If you believe a fraudster is trying to scam you, it’s important to act quickly. Gather evidence, whether it’s emails, receipts, or phone numbers, and report the scam to the appropriate authorities. Afterwards, be sure your accounts are secure and watch for any fraudulent activity. More than ever, it’s especially important to be observant, so you or your family members don’t become victims of these crimes.