Anytime there is a disaster or situation where information is seemingly coming from all directions, the fraudsters and scam artists are ready with new schemes to take advantage of consumers. COVID-19 has presented a ripe opportunity for fraudsters to create deception. According to FTC data, consumers have lost over $545 million dollars to COVID-related fraud since the beginning of 2020 in addition to being targeted by the countless schemes of fraudsters trying to take advantage of the situation. By arming yourself with a little knowledge, you can avoid falling victim to these scams.
Here are some tips to help you remain vigilant against COVID-related fraud:
- Be on the lookout for COVID-19 vaccine fraud schemes. Never share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.
- Be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and emails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees. The IRS’s first form of communication is by mail – not by phone.
- Be aware of unsolicited requests for Medicare information, even if they are accompanied by offers of “free” COVID-19 tests or supplies or an email or call by someone claiming to be a representative from Medicare or the Department of Health and Human Services. Scammers may use Medicare information to submit false medical claims for unrelated, unnecessary, or fictitious services.
- Be on the lookout for telephone calls, mass-mailings, spam email, or text messages by individuals posing as government officials or payment facilitators promising CARES Act stimulus payments and asking for personal identifying information. Communications may provide a website, a phone number, or an email address for consumers to contact to arrange for stimulus payments upon payment of an advanced fee or threatening adverse consequences for failure to cooperate. Also be wary of calls claiming you received overpayment of the stimulus money and demanding a “refund” of the difference.
If something seems too good to be true, or just doesn’t feel “right”, trust your instinct. If you want to verify the validity of a communication you’ve received, search for the organization’s official website and get the phone number to call them directly. And remember – First Bank will never contact you via email requesting personal identifying information!