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BEWARE: COVID-19 SCAMS

BEWARE: COVID-19 SCAMS

BEWARE: COVID-19 SCAMS

Although there are countless examples of people helping people right now, and communities coming together to meet our current challenges, there are a few darker forces at work. Those present themselves in the form of scams. The Federal Trade Commission has identified several scams associated with the COVID-19 virus, with advice on how to avoid becoming a victim of unscrupulous bad actors. Be aware of an on the lookout for:

ROBOCALLS: The FTC advises hanging up immediately if you receive a robocall. Scammers are hard at work trying to take advantage of people with offers of treatments for the virus, protective garb and work-at-home schemes. Many people do not know that when you press a key on your phone in response to a robocall offer, you are often setting yourself up to receive a lot more robocalls.

EMAILS AND “PHISHING”: Scammers are using emails to put forth special offers for treatments, even cures for the virus, and for protective masks, etc. These emails often ask for personal information, such as your social security number, phone number, account numbers, logins and passwords. When an email asks for this information be aware that it is probably not legitimate, and often will use your personal information to steal your identity. Since many people are particularly vulnerable during this national crisis, it is even more important than usual not to provide any personal information in response to an email. “Phishing” emails try to get you to click on a link, which then can install a virus or ransomware on your computer. Do not click on any links from senders with which you are not familiar.

CHARITY FRAUD:  Many people want to help in any way they can during this crisis. That makes some people particularly vulnerable to charities that are not real. Often these scammers will use names that sound very much like real charities. If you receive a request for donations, check out the organization first. A great way to do that is to go to Charity Navigator, and in the search field type the name of the organization that is asking for your money. If it is a fraudulent operation your search will come up empty. You can perform a similar search at Guidestar. If you determine you are dealing with a fraudulent operation, report it to the FTC immediately at www.FTC.gov/complaint .  

ORDERING PRODUCTS ONLINE: During this crisis you will see a lot of promotions online, often on social media, for products associated with the current crisis. If the product that interests you is offered by a company you have never heard of, check it out first. If you see an offer for products such as masks, gloves or anti-bacterial cleaning supplies, do a search online for the company first. You can also search specifically for scams, by searching under the company name accompanied by the word “scam” or “complaint.” Scammers will offer these products online, ask for your credit card number and then fail to deliver the goods.  Often you can order the same types of products from companies with which you are already familiar.

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