Thursday, April 23, 2020

14 Ways to Protect Yourself from Covid-19 Related Scams.

By Timothy Gamble

4-23-2020 - The FBI is reporting over 3,600 complaints related to Covid-19 scams have been made by the public. Many of these scams are operated from websites that advertise fake vaccines and cures, promote fraudulent charities, or host various other types of scams relating to the Covid-19 pandemic. Many of these websites also deliver computer viruses or other malware to visitors' computers or smartphones.

There are also complaints about phone scams relating to the pandemic, and especially to the economic stimulus checks that are just now starting to go out to the public. Authorities expect these scams to increase in the coming weeks. Here are tips for protecting yourself from these Covid-19 scams.

1- Use commonsense. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is.

2- Do not give out personal or financial information to anyone, unless you have first verified their identity.

3- The IRS is NOT and will not be calling people regarding economic stimulus checks. You will NEVER receive an unsolicited phone call from the IRS requesting your bank account information.

4-You do NOT need the services of a private company to facilitate your economic stimulus check. Nor can private companies "speed up" your check. Most people eligible for stimulus checks will automatically get them, as the government is using tax or benefit information to process the checks. 

5- If you need to get into contact with the IRS regarding your stimulus check (for example, if you are a non-tax-flier and do not get social security or other government benefits), only use the official IRS website to do so - www.IRS.gov. Note that the official website ends in .gov.

6- Official coronavirus information can be found at www.coronavirus.gov - again, note that the official website ends in .gov.

7- Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to Covid-19.  Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating.  For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.” Again, official government websites end in .gov. Websites run by charities, churches, and other non-profits typically, but not always, end in .org. Also, check the spelling of the website. Scammers often use common and easy-to-overlook misspellings to trick people into thinking they are visiting an official website.

8- Realize that there are no "miracle" cures or preventions for Covid-19. While some vitamins, herbs, and other supplements may help boost the immune system, any claims of these products curing or preventing Covid-19 are false.

9- Be wary of unsolicited emails or phone calls offering information, supplies, or treatment for Covid-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes.  Legitimate health authorities will not contact the public this way.

10- Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus or other malware onto your computer or smartphone.

11- Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.  Keep your operating system up to date as well.

12- Check online reviews of any company offering Covid-19 products or supplies.  Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items. Try to deal with companies that you already know and trust.

13- Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations in connection with Covid-19 before giving any donation. Remember, an organization may not be legitimate even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name or has reputable looking seals or logos on its materials.  For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission website at www.FTC.gov.

14- Be wary of any business, charity, or person insisting on payments or donations in cash or by a gift card.  Credit cards, debit cards, Paypal, and paper checks are the safest means of making donations or payments.

If you think you are a victim of a fraud or attempted fraud involving Covid-19, the US Dept. of Justice recommends that you call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 1-866-720-5721.  If it is a cyber scam, you can submit your complaint through https://www.ic3.gov.

Sources: Press releases and other information provided by the US Dept. of Justice, the FBI, and the Federal Trade Commission, were used in writing this article.

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