April 16, 2020

Staying Financially Healthy During COVID-19

Stimulus check scams

  • Do not respond to or click any links in texts and emails about stimulus checks from the government. Scammers are telling people they can get you the money now, which is not true.
  • If you submitted a tax return for 2018 or 2019, there's a good chance the government already knows where to send the money. If the IRS does not have your bank account information, visit the IRS website to complete a form indicating where you would like the funds deposited. If the government is unable to get bank account information for you, it will mail the check to your last known address. The IRS will never contact you by phone, email, or mail asking you to verify your information.

COVID-19 product and treatment scams

  • The pandemic has made some supplies, like hand sanitizer and face masks, hard to find. An enterprising scammer can create a fake website pretending to offer these elusive products in the hope that you will "buy" them. Some are also claiming to have access to home COVID-19 test kits or an experimental treatment, but there are no treatments or test kits approved by the Food and Drug Administration for home use at this time. Scammers are simply trying to get you to provide personal and financial information.
  • Be careful about where you shop. Avoid making purchases from unfamiliar websites, but if you want to, do some research online first to investigate its legitimacy and look for a lock icon near the URL bar. This tells you the website encrypts your personal information so hackers cannot steal it.

Fake websites with exclusive COVID-19 information

COVID-19 has rapidly become one of the most searched topics on the internet, and many companies have created dedicated COVID-19 pages on their websites to address the crisis. There are also websites that track the progress of the pandemic. Scammers may create COVID-19 websites of their own, possibly claiming to have exclusive information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or a similar organization. When you visit the site, it may download malicious software to your computer that steals your personal information.

You should be especially careful of websites that have "coronavirus" or "COVID-19" in the site name itself, as these have probably just been created recently and could be fake. Rely on legitimate sources, like the CDC, World Health Organization (WHO), and government websites, for accurate information.

Robo Calls

Do not press any numbers or respond to robocalls. Scammers are pitching everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. Engaging them will lead to more robocalls.

Simple Ways to Protect Yourself

  • Be aware and suspicious of any requests for personal information via phone, text, emails or direct mail. Do not click links in emails. Always fact-check information.
  • Know who you are buying from. Online sellers are claiming to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they do not and you are giving them your information.
  • Do not grant access to your computer even if a call or an email states it comes from a known company such as Microsoft and Apple. They may state that they are offering a warranty or that they have identified an issue with your computer. Do not grant access until you have checked that the call/email is legitimate. Once scammers gain access, they can infect the computer with Spyware or Malware.
  • If you receive a call, text or email that states something like a family member is in a foreign jail and needs money to get out or that an elder needs money for basic necessities, hang up immediately and check with a trusted source with known contact information.
  • Verify with your bank or employer any telephone or email requests about changing your payroll or banking information account information.

You can visit these trusted websites to learn more about current fraud schemes and how you can protect yourself:

Department of Justice's website

Federal Trade Commission’s website

Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Public Service Announcement

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