By Kelley Muhsemann
Communications and Marketing Manager
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have lost $13.4 million to coronavirus-related scams since the beginning of 2020. Although it has always been important to stay vigilant and apprised of scam tactics, the pandemic has paved the way for opportunistic scammers to steal money and identities using innovative methods. Outlined below are some of the more popular scams to be aware of, and how to protect yourself from them as we navigate these uncertain times.
Economic Impact Payment Scam: As you’re probably aware, the government is sending out stimulus payments to many Americans. Scammers are taking this opportunity to contact people, pretending to be their bank or the government, and asking for bank account numbers and other pieces of financial information.
Protect Yourself: For those that have submitted a tax return in 2018 or 2019, the money will likely be automatically direct deposited into the bank account linked to your tax return with no action required on your part. If you have not yet received your stimulus payment or are unsure about whether you qualify, check the IRS Web site for updates and instructions. Keep in mind that the IRS will not call you to verify any financial information. Also watch for misused phrases such as “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is “Economic Impact Payment.”
Sick Relative Scam: Although this is not necessarily a “new” method, some scammers are contacting people pretending to be their friend or relative asking for money. Typically, scammers would claim to be stuck in a foreign country and request funds to help them arrange travel back home. The new spin is that they’re now pretending to be stuck in the hospital, infected with COVID-19, and will request money for treatment.
Protect Yourself: It’s best practice to offer to hang up and call your friend or family member back on the phone number you have listed for them. You could also hang up and contact the hospital they are claiming to call from or ask a personal question that they would know. If they can’t answer, or refuse to answer, it’s a good sign that you’re on the line with a scammer.
Text Message Scam: Police are warning of a new text message scam, which claims that someone who came into contact with you tested positive for COVID-19. The text message will offer a link with more information. Other text and robocall scams are offering testing kits and bogus treatments.
Protect Yourself: Be careful not to click any links in texts sent by random phone numbers, and always check reputable resources before believing any claims that come through your phone.
Pyramid Scheme Scam: These are certainly not new, but they are resurfacing. The most recent one is being called “The Blessing Loom,” which is claiming to turn your $100 investment into $800. These are not only illegal but are also usually brought about by people you may know – like Facebook friends, or friends of friends.
Protect Yourself: “Get rich quick” schemes may sound appealing and exciting, but before you hand over any funds, be sure to research if it’s legal, and if it’s a legitimate business proposal. You should also contact your financial advisor and/or your attorney to discuss any investments or new business ventures before diving in. These professionals will not only have a better pulse on your personal financial situation, but are also trained to protect your best interest, and can help you make informed decisions.
Social Security Scam: People have reportedly been receiving robocalls from the Social Security Administration, telling them that there has been suspicious activity on their account, and due to the pandemic and extra precaution being taken, their account is being suspended. The recipient is urged to call a fake phone number to help rectify the issue.
Protect Yourself: If you receive a call like this, simply hang up immediately and do not contact the number provided. Instead, consider reporting the call to the Social Security Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 or visit the Social Security Web site to learn more about fraud prevention and reporting.
Unfortunately, the virus is not the only invisible enemy we’re fighting. The pandemic has brought about countless new scams, and it’s important to be aware of them so you can protect yourself and your loved ones. If you’re ever unsure about a communication you have received, try calling a local agency, or do some research on legitimate sites, like the FCC, the FBI, and the FTC. We also welcome you to contact our office at 631-218-0077 or at firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions.
R.W. Rogé & Company, Inc. helps clients plan, achieve and live the life they want. To learn more about how we do this, click here. To discuss your financial future with a knowledgeable Senior Wealth Advisor, contact us at 631.218.0077 or at email@example.com for a complimentary consultation.