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Be 'Safer at Home'

Be 'Safer at Home'

For most people, COVID-19 is a threat – but for scam artists, it’s an opportunity. Email, phone call, and text scams try to create a sense of urgency, pressuring victims to act before they have time to think. COVID-19 has done the scammer’s work for him - there’s already a sense of urgency and anxiety around the coronavirus. From social distancing to government alerts, we’re trying to navigate unfamiliar terrain. When it comes to scams though, there are simple ways to stay on solid ground. Most important - take a minute to think before you act - just like you would in any normal situation. Here’s a roadmap of some COVID-19 scams, so you can avoid the potholes and stay on the straight and narrow.

Requests for medical information, offers of COVID-19 test kits. Emails or phone calls, purportedly from a health care professional, an insurance company, or a government agency, asking for medical information to evaluate your risk or offering to sell you a coronavirus testing kit. In reality, they’re out to get your personal and financial information. If it’s a phone call, tell the caller you’ll call back – and then hang up! If it’s an email, don’t reply – delete it! There are no home-testing kits for the coronavirus. If you feel you must respond, don’t call a number someone gives you on the phone or reply directly to an email. Instead, use a search engine like Google to look up a phone number or email address for the organization or agency that (supposedly) contacted you.

Requests for financial information, offers of monetary compensation. Phone calls, emails, or texts asking for your financial information in order to process and send you a government stimulus payment related to the coronavirus pandemic are likely fake. These scams are designed to gain access to your financial accounts and your money. Don’t give out your PayPal account information, Social Security number, bank account number, credit card number, or other financial details to anyone claiming they need the information to process your federal stimulus payment. The FBI, state attorneys general, and other agencies have issued warnings that such requests are fake.

COVID-19 hospital forms. So-called phishing attacks – targeted scams aimed right at you. Watch for emails appearing to come from a hospital, warning you’ve been exposed to the coronavirus. Attached to the email is a form to download and take with you to the hospital. Don’t be fooled! The attachment contains malware - malicious computer code that can take over your computer, sending all your information back to the scam artists or locking your computer until you pay a ransom. You can steer clear of these scams by following basic computer safety rules of the road - never download an email attachment you aren’t expecting. Call the sender to confirm he or she sent the attachment, even if the email is from a friend. And remember, don’t call a number in the email – look it up yourself.

Store loyalty offers. Texts or emails offering you store credit or cashback – all you have to do is confirm your identity by sending some information. Store sales flyers and coupons are one thing, but these are another - scams. Even if the information seems trivial – like a store membership number or a photo of your membership card – it may be just the information a con artist needs to gain access to your credit card or steal your identity. If you want to be sure you’re not letting a good deal pass you by, contact the store directly, using a number or email address you’ve used before – not contact information in the text or email you received.

Investment opportunities/fundraising solicitations. Emails, phone calls – even posts on your social media accounts – with too-good-to-be-true opportunities to get in on surefire investments. For example, stock in a drug company claiming to have just discovered a miracle cure. Don’t believe it - anything that seems too good to be true is almost certainly no good at all. Or you may see a social media post asking for donations to a COVID-19 fundraiser. You already know which charities and aid organizations you trust. Go ahead and donate to them.