Unfortunately, these stressful times serve as the perfect opportunity for scammers to strike. Even if you’re at home working or sheltering in place, scammers will still try to find a way to you. With all the uncertainty right now, make sure that you don’t fall victim to these scams. Trust your instincts — if it feels wrong, it likely is.
The best way to avoid robocall scams is to not answer calls from unknown numbers. But, if you do answer a call and it feels off, hang up! Scammers or scammy companies use illegal robocalls to try to profit from coronavirus-related fears. They are known to pose as the IRS or Medicare. You can visit the Federal Trade Commission's website to hear examples of scam calls.
COVID-19 Testing or Treatment Scam
Some scammers are calling or even knocking on doors while wearing lab coats or hazmat gear claiming to be with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These scammers claim they have an at-home coronavirus test for sale and may also claim to be selling fake cures, vaccines or medical advice on unproven treatments. With social distancing in place, it’s better to avoid answering the door; and don’t believe any medical advice that doesn’t come from a reputable doctor or health official.
With some supplies in high demand, scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts or email addresses to pretend to sell in-demand COVID-19 supplies, like face masks and rubber gloves. Once you try to purchase any of the supplies, they pocket the money without sending you any actual product. If you’re buying online, only shop with businesses you know. You can also look up business on BBB before making a purchase to confirm they are legit.
Health Provider Scam
Beware of scammers contacting people by phone and email pretending to be doctors or hospitals that have treated a friend or family member for COVID-19 and are demanding payment. A hospital or doctor’s office is unlikely to call a relative for money. Hang up immediately and get in touch with the mentioned friend or family member.
A trickier scam to identify is false solicitation for donations for individuals, groups and areas impacted by coronavirus. A quick search online may be able to help identity if a request is legitimate or not. Consider donating to a local organization or charity you have donated to in the past.
Phishing is a well-known tactic used by scammers to trick you into giving up personal information. Scammers are now sending emails posing as health officials, including the World Health Organization and the CDC. They want to trick you into downloading malware or providing personal identification and financial information. Do not provide personal information through emails and do not click on any links from senders you don’t recognize.
Be wary of mobile apps that are claiming to track the spread of the virus. If you use these apps, they could insert malware on your device and steal your personal and financial information. It’s always a good idea to research apps before using them.
Compassion and Romance Scams
During this vulnerable time while you’re contained and isolated, scammers may be trying to develop a friendship or romantic relationship with you to gain your trust and obtain your personal and financial information.
Your best bet to protect yourself from scammers is to remain cautious and to trust your instincts — if it feels wrong, it likely is. Beware of these red flags from scammers:
- Urgency – Applying pressure or using fear to get you act quickly before you can think through what they are asking for.
- Scarcity – Claiming that there is a limited supply, so you must act now.
- Social Consensus – Claiming that everyone else is doing it so you need to do it or you’ll miss out.
- Credible Sources – Attempting to prove they are with a reputable business or organization.
Adding Identity Services and Fraud Expense Coverage to your Farm Bureau homeowners policy is another great way to avoid risk of identity theft. Reach out to your Farm Bureau agent for more information.