COVID-19 has certainly taken its toll on our lives in 2020. In addition to the health crisis it has caused, we’ve also had to endure social distancing, business shutdowns, food shortages, and financial impacts. And as if all the stresses from COVID-19 weren’t enough, another problem has arisen that is making the situation even worse: scammers are taking advantage of the pandemic for their own personal gain. Unfortunately, scammers often target older Americans, who are o,ne of the groups that tend to be most concerned about their COVID-19 health risks and their financial situation. (See the FCC’s article “Coronavirus Scams Targeting Older Americans.” https://www.fcc.gov/coronavirus-scams-targeting-older-americans. Here are some of the scams that you should be aware of and tips to help you avoid becoming a victim:

  • COVID-19 stimulus payment scams – Scammers try to get people to pay a fee to get their stimulus payment or to provide their Social Security number, bank account or government benefits debit card account number. The IRS will not contact you by phone, email, text or social media to request information about your stimulus payment or ask for your personal financial information. You will never have to pay to get your stimulus money, nor will the IRS ever tell you that you need to pay back some of your stimulus money due to an error. Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS, and never in response to a call, text or email. For more information, go to the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC’s) page on stimulus payment scams: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/04/coronavirus-stimulus-payment-scams-what-you-need-know
  • COVID-19 Home test kit and vaccine offers – Scammers are selling products to treat, test for or prevent COVID-19 without any proof that they work. Most test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA and aren’t necessarily accurate.
  • Contact trace scammers – Legitimate local COVID-19 contact tracers are health officials who track cases to help prevent larger outbreaks. They use a variety of methods to contact those who may have been exposed to the virus, including phone calls and text messages. But scammers have picked up on this and are contacting people claiming the contacted party has been exposed to COVID-19 and needs to act quickly. They try to collect financial information or payment for testing. Be aware that true contact tracers only collect health information. They will never ask for money or financial information. For more information, visit the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC’s) web page on contact tracing fraud: https://www.fcc.gov/fear-fuels-covid-19-contact-tracing-scams.
  • Illegal robocalls – Scammers are pitching low-priced health insurance and work-at-home schemes. Hang up on them!
  • Email fraud – Beware of emails that claim to be from the CDC or WHO. Get your COVID-19 news from coronavirus.gov or usa.gov/coronavirus. Don’t click on links in emails from sources you don’t know.
  • Donations – There are plenty of COVID-19 relief organizations who are raising money for legitimate purposes, however there are also many scammers claiming to be collecting money for COVID-19 relief. Always check on a charity by looking at its website or calling. And never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.

Just as you are following all the common-sense guidelines like social distancing, wearing a face mask in public and washing your hands often to shield yourself against COVID-19, you can also protect yourself from the scams related to it.