As we all adapt to the reality of COVID-19, criminals see opportunities to separate us from our savings. In the world of the scammer, the effort is to put you under the "ETHER," a heightened state of anxiety by creating emotional situations from joy to fear. The following are some of the more prevalent scams being used to wage war. They appear in no specific order of frequency or intensity. With many of us spending more time at home, the attacks are constant, relentless and conducted, in part, with the expectation that we will lower or guard and become victims.
Stimulus Check Scam - beware of any telephone call or email you receive that promises to expedite your stimulus check. In most cases the payment will be made directly to your bank account. If you do not have a bank account on record with the IRS you may face a lengthy delay in receiving the payment. Do not respond to anyone claiming to represent the government. The same advice holds for anyone receiving a call, text message, or email asking for verification of PayPal or credit card account information. Finally, some scammers are claiming to represent the U.S. Census Bureau and tying the stimulus check to information collected by the census. Stimulus checks are not dependent on completion of the census form. While the Census Bureau may contact you to collect information, the call will not require account numbers or personally identifying information. To verify the authenticity of the call, obtain the caller's name and contact the regional office of the Census Bureau: 800-991-2520 or 800-923-8282.
COVID-19 immunizations - con artists are calling and emailing intended victims with opportunities to purchase COVID-19 immunizations or preventative medications. At present there are no such products available
Work at Home and Home-based Business Scams - these scams promise the opportunity to earn high salaries at home or by starting your own franchise business. The audio message may be something like this: "Hello this is a courtesy invitation to work with Amazon from home and make up to $400 in a day. Open enrollment has begun for the Amazon associate program. The program allows you to partner with Amazon and share in their success, as a referral partner. Everyone over 18 qualifies. No sales or technical experience are needed. Work from home. You set your own schedule." Report the contact to your state consumer protection office or the Federal Trade Commission.
Test Kit Phone Scam - do you want to be tested for COVID-19? This scam call wants you to order a test kit: "The Coronavirus Response Act has made coronavirus testing more accessible immediately. If you want to receive a free testing kit delivered overnight to your home, press 1. If you do not want your free testing, press 2." Current testing is being done by medical facilities with the results being sent to state health departments. Legitimate tests are not available over the phone or on-line. Report any contacts to your state health department - Massachusetts: 617-624-6000; New Hampshire: 603-271-9700 New York: 866-881-2809; Vermont: 802-257-2880
Social Security Suspension Scam - here the scammer assums the identity of Social Security Administration employee: "Hello this is a call from the Social Security Administration. During these difficult times of the coronavirus, we regret to inform you that we have got an order to suspend your socials immediately within 24 hours due to suspicious and fraudulent activities found on your socials. We are contacting you as this case is critical and needs your urgent attention. To get more information about this case please call immediately on our department." There is no connection between the Covid-19 response and the continuation of Social Security or Medicare benefits. Contact such as this should be reported immediately to the Social Security Administration.
Report the above criminal activity to your state consumer protection department:
Questions, concerns or comments? Contact me: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and the Vermont coordinator of the AARP Fraud Watch Network. He hosts a feature CATV program, Mr. Scammer, distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland, VT - www.gnat-tv.org