Scam Alert | Fraud Alert | Fraud Protection
The latest scams and fraud targeting the elderly
Scams related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) are just as persistent as the ongoing public health crisis. As the pandemic continues to plague the country, federal agencies continue to warn seniors about
COVID-19-related schemes designed to steal their cash, bank account number, credit card number, and personal information.
As of July 29, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had received over 147,600 fraud reports related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments, with victims losing a total of $95 million. The median fraud loss was $265.
Scammers are even using the FTC’s name to commit fraud. The agency heard about a scam email purported to be from the FTC. The email claims you can get money from a COVID-19 “Global Empowerment Fund.” All you need to do is respond to the email with your bank account information and the money will be transferred into your account. The FTC says there is no such fund, there is no money, and the email is not from the FTC.
Beware of These COVID-19-Related Schemes
Phony Contact Tracers
Fraudsters are impersonating legitimate contact tracers who notify people of their potential exposure to the coronavirus. A state’s public health department hires contact tracers to work with a person infected with the virus. The contact tracers ask for the names and phone numbers of everyone the infected person has been in close contact with while possibly infectious.
The phony contact tracers will ask for a person’s Social Security number, bank account number, credit card number, or other sensitive information. Scammers also send text messages or emails with fake links. Clicking on the link will download malware onto a phone or laptop. Scammers then get access to a person’s personal and financial information.
Real contact tracers do not ask for a person’s Social Security number or banking information, or for payment.
“I’ll Do Your Grocery Shopping For You”
Honest community members have come to the aid of seniors during the public health crisis. But, be wary if a stranger comes up to you in a grocery store and offers to shop for you. The fraudster will ask for money to pay for your groceries and for your home address.
Do not give a stranger your money or home address. The fraudster will not deliver your groceries. What’s even worse, the stranger has your home address.
“We Have A Cure for COVID-19”
Beware of companies marketing and selling solutions to prevent or treat COVID-19. The FTC and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have sent more than 40 warning letters to companies purporting to have products that prevent or cure the coronavirus disease.
Some of the products advertised on websites and social media include essential oils, colloidal silver, and intravenous therapies with high doses of Vitamin C. Marketers also promote air filtration systems that can neutralize the coronavirus.
While scientists are working on a COVID-19 vaccine, there is no FDA-approved vaccine, medication, supplement, or product that can prevent, neutralize, or cure the coronavirus disease.
The Pump and Dump
In this scheme, phony investment brokers claim a certain company developed a product that can prevent or cure COVID-19. The broker pumps up the value of the product to get people interested in buying stock in the company.
The company could be a real company or a shell company created only to sell fake stock. If there is real stock, there is usually not much value and the scammer usually buys it for a dollar or less.
Stock prices rise on the exaggeration of the product by the brokers. The victim-investors buy stock at high prices, and the phony brokers sell (or dump) their shares, causing investors to lose money.
Ongoing Scams Targeting Seniors
Older adults not only need to be on the alert for COVID-19-related scams but ongoing scams that target seniors, such as:
Government impersonation scam: Scammers call or send emails to seniors posing as IRS agents who threaten seniors with arrest or suspension of their driver’s license if they do not pay taxes that they allegedly owe. Seniors are told to pay immediately through a wire transfer or a gift card. Note: The IRS does not call or send emails to taxpayers or ask for wire transfers or gift cards as payment for taxes.
Home repair scam: A con artist comes to the door and offers to do home improvement repairs but needs money to get materials. If the senior gives the person money, the con artist takes the money without making any repairs.
Romance scam: Con artists go on dating websites and social media and develop a relationship with seniors, only to trick them into sending them money or revealing their banking account and other personal information.
Sweepstakes or lottery scam: Fraudsters call, send a letter, or email their victims to let them know that they have won a fake sweepstakes or lottery. Redeeming their prize, however, requires the “winner” to pay a fee, wire money, or deposit a check that the fraudsters sent and wire a portion of the money back. Do not, under any circumstances, send money to pay for sweepstakes or lottery winnings or deposit a check from the alleged sponsors into your bank account.
And, that’s not all, the U.S. Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA) warns veterans to be aware of “pension poaching” scams. Watch out for individuals or organizations that accept payment for moving your assets around so that you can qualify for a VA pension.
Similarly, lookout for people who claim they can help veterans qualify for the Aid and Attendance program, a legitimate VA program for veterans with limited earnings and assets. For a hefty fee, the con artist claims to help veterans get around the VA rules by moving their assets around so veterans can appear needy enough to qualify for the program.
FBI Tips on Protecting Yourself Against Scammers
Recognize when someone is trying to scam you and end all communication with that person.
Do not act hastily when scammers pressure you into taking action quickly. Scammers create a heightened sense of urgency to produce fear and persuade victims into taking action without thinking through the situation.
Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, mailings, e-mails, text messages, and door-to-door solicitors.
Do not send money, gift cards, or personally identifiable information to unverified people and businesses.
Be careful what you download. Never open an email attachment from someone you don’t know, and attachments forwarded to you.
Disconnect from the Internet and turn off your device when pop-up ads appear or your screen locks. Clicking on pop-up ads can lead to the ads installing a malicious program on your device.
If you have been the victim of a fraud, file a complaint with the FTC by calling 877-382-4357 or visit ftc.gov/complaint.