Scams during the coronavirus pandemic are spreading almost as quickly as the disease itself. There are not only more scams popping up everywhere, but they are now more convincing.
Matt Frankel, financial planner, investment advisor, and writer for The Ascent and The Motley Fool, stressed to WAVE 3 News that this year, Kentucky consumers have lost more than $1 million to COVID-19 fraud.
Indiana is not far behind.
“Scammers just see an opportunity to make a quick buck. It’s terrible that it’s happening during a pandemic,” Frankel explained. “By knowing what to look for, and the warning signs to look out for, you could avoid 90% of the scams.”
Here are some ways to avoid falling for COVID-19 scams:
- Know that a government agency will never call, text, or contact you on social media saying you owe money or to offer help getting your Economic Impact Payment faster
- Never click on links in an email or text message, especially those that claim you owe money or services will be disconnected
- Say no to anyone claiming to be from a government agency asking for cash, gift cards, wire transfers, cryptocurrency, or personal and financial information
- Ignore offers for vaccinations or home test kits for COVID-19
- Hang up on robocalls
“They will not contact you by email,” Frankel stressed. “They will not contact you through social media. They will not ask you for your special security number or credit card for any reason.”
Many scammers use branches of the United States government, like the IRS, to scam people.
“Legitimate businesses will never call you out of the blue and ask for your social security number, your driver’s license number, your credit card number, your bank account number,” Frankel explained.
The old saying goes, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” but scammers during the pandemic are taking a different route.
“The reason why so many scammers are getting away with this COVID fraud is because what they’re saying doesn’t sound too good to be true,” Frankel explained. “When someone says we’ve overpaid your stimulus check by 200 dollars it does that sound unrealistic? Not really and that’s why it’s so tough to spot in these kinds of cases.”
The median COVID-19 fraud loss in Kentucky is $300. In Indiana, it is $275.
Consumers between the ages of 30 and 39 posted the highest number of fraud reports in the United States. This year, Kentucky consumers have lost over $1 million to COVID-19 fraud, and Americans have reported more than 194,000 cases of COVID-19 fraud and lost more than $134 million according to a new study by The Ascent.
“They’re using realistic stories to get people to fall for things they never thought they’d fall for,” Frankel explained.
Someone may end up out of a few hundred dollars and scammers end up with their personal information and access now to drain their bank account, open new bank accounts in their name, take out loans or lines of credit and take out phone plans and other contracts.
“If you’ve found you’ve given info to someone you shouldn’t or even if you suspect you can immediately put what’s called a fraud alert on your credit report,” Frankel said. “It tells lenders to take extra steps to verify that its actually you before opening an account in your name.”
A scam constitutes fraud, which is a criminal act. Report any scam immediately to Kentucky or Indiana’s attorney general’s office. Also, make sure to stay protected from further risks and see if getting lost money back is possible.