While an emergency such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) generally brings out the best in people, unfortunately, some see it as the perfect opportunity to take advantage of others. The general sense of concern around the virus and increased isolation – especially of older Americans – creates a fertile environment for scam artists. Some are selling fake cures or testing equipment, while others seek donations for fake charities. At the same time, other scammers are using the virus or the government stimulus efforts as an opportunity to steal personal information, such as Social Security numbers.
Don’t allow yourself or your clients to fall victim to their deception. Fight falsehoods with the following advice, courtesy of the Federal Trade Commission. When you’re finished reading, download our latest Client Communication Kit: COVID-19 Scams for a full suite of assets to create a multi-channel campaign that displays your expertise.
1. Ignore offers for vaccines, cures, and at-home test kits.
As of now, there are no FDA-approved vaccines or cures for COVID-19, and if there were, they would have to be administered by a licensed medical professional. The same is true for coronavirus and antibody tests. Avoid all of these traps by talking to a doctor or pharmacist for all of your testing and pharmaceutical needs.
Beware if you see:
- Online ads, emails, or text messages touting products that will deliver a cure.
- Testing facilities that are not affiliated with trusted hospitals and providers.
- Testing facilities that require exorbitant upfront payment (cash).
2. Screen your calls.
If you’ve noticed an increase of unknown numbers appearing on your phone, there’s a reason: robocalls flourish in times of crisis. Con artists are hopping on the phones and posing as everything from government employees to debt collection agencies to scam people out of their money. Remember to never give sensitive information over the phone unless you are 100% sure you are speaking to a verified source.
- If someone tells you that to receive your Social Security benefit payments, you will have to provide your personal information or use another form of payment (credit card, check, gift card, etc.)
- If you receive a call asking you to send money fast to assist a sick family member or friend. Hang up and call your family member/friend to see if the story checks out.
3. Look out for phishing emails and texts too.
Similar to phone calls, scammers are using email and text to trick people into providing sensitive information like their Social Security or bank account numbers. Keep in mind that the government will never ask you for your Social Security number via email or text, and the same is true for banks and credit card companies when it comes to your accounts.
Protect yourself by:
- Responding to government agencies, banks, and credit card companies through secure websites and apps.
- Not clicking on links that you do not know.
- Making sure your anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer is updated.
4. Double-check charities.
The good news is there are a lot of organizations out there trying to help people through this pandemic. The bad news is there are also a lot of imposters creating fake charities to get money from you. If you want your donation to count, vet charities online through organizations like Charity Navigator, GuideStar, or CharityWatch. And, only make donations through secure portals. Most major banks and credit card companies offer fraud protection, in the case that you accidentally give money to a bogus charity. You can also help by reporting any imposters to the FTC Complaint Assistant.
Spotting the scam:
- Scammers will try to rush you to make a donation.
- Sometimes, scammers will thank you for making a donation you’ve never made.
- Scammers will make vague and emotional statements about how your money will be used, but will be unable to speak to specifics.
5. Stay informed.
Scammers are constantly coming up with new ways to trick people out of their money. Stay ahead of their schemes by regularly checking the FTC’s coronavirus scam website and following the CDC for the latest updates on protective measures, testing guidelines, and drug developments.
Share your expertise
Visit KW Connect to download our newest Client Communication Kit: COVID-19 Scams. Inside, you’ll find marketing assets to share with your clients about common COVID-19 scams they should take note of.Download The Kit