During every disaster, there are people out there willing to take advantage of the elderly, low-income and the just-plain desperate, in order to make a dollar. “Easy” ways to get loans that turn out not only to be not easy, but to not even exist. Faster ways to get money from the government that result not in getting money from the government, but giving money to someone else. COVID-19 is no different.
As an added bonus, since this is a healthcare issue, there’s a whole new type of scam – fake treatments and tests.
One thing to remember, like all those spam phone calls about warranties or insurance, if they didn’t work, people wouldn’t do them (maybe a gentle reminder to the elderly relatives).
And so far this year fraudsters are doing big business, the Federal Trade Commission reports that nearly $100 million has been lost so far to Covid-19 related scams.
The internet security site SocialCatfish has been tracking consumer complaints to the FTC and overall, complaints are up massively since the beginning of the year.
In March in Georgia, there were 1,438 complaints; in July, that number was 3,086.
And by March the COVID-scammers were already in high gear. Daily complaints to the FTC – nationwide, averaged approximately 10 in January. Since April, complaints have averaged more than 1,000 a day.
The most common scam is likely involves the IRS relief funding. As the IRS and every government agency repeatedly says, they will not call you about your money but nonetheless, this is a very “popular” scam. And if you’re not exactly a plugged in news consumer, maybe you don’t know that the IRS does not make individual phone calls asking for social security numbers or checking account numbers to deposit things into.
Along those same lines are email or text scams, claiming it is the government and information is needed to deposit a check. As InsiderAdvantage readers of course know, all this information will be used to compromise your identity and rather that pushing money into your account, pulling money out of the account.
If you do have any question related about anything related to the IRS, they urge people to visit their website IRS.gov and you also can call the IRS at 800-919-9835.
Back in June, the FTC issued a warning about scam COVID-19 treatments. Colleen Tressler, a Consumer Education Specialist with the FTC, put it matter-of-factly. “Think to yourself: if there’s actually been a medical breakthrough, am I really going to hear about it for the first time from an ad or sales pitch? The answer is clearly “no.” So train yourself to ignore those types of false ads,” said Tressler.
But the scam options are nearly endless. There are price gouging scams, undelivered goods scams – meaning you pay for something online but never actually receive it, and “Free Groceries” scams – a “you won a prize, all we need is your details” scam.
In addition to their scam tracking, SocialCatfish put together a list of ways to avoid scams. Bottom line: never give out personal information and always do some research. Find a second source to confirm it’s a real offer, a real company, a real person.