While staying alert and identifying potential scams is something we should always be doing, it is even more important at this moment in time. That's because, amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are eager to take advantage of the current state of fear and confusion - which is leaving many people isolated and vulnerable. To help you remain alert and aware, we’ve identified a few common scams that have arisen in response to the current pandemic.
Scam #1: Emails Offering Information About COVID-19
At any time, an email asking you to share or verify personal or financial information should be regarded with extreme caution. In today’s climate, keep your eye out for emails that claim to have information about the coronavirus pandemic - especially if they’re offering this information in exchange for personal information. This is an easy way for scammers to lure someone in, since most people are isolated at home and worried about the pandemic.
Scam #2: Suspicious Links
If a friend or business sends you an email with a link or attachment that is unexpected or out of the norm, consider contacting the sender before opening the link to make sure they weren’t hacked, or a scammer isn’t posing as them.
Key signs of a suspicious email may include:
- Poor grammar and misspellings
- Lack of specific information (your name, account info, etc.)
- The messaging has a sense of urgency
- Sender’s address is different than usual
This logic should be applied at all times, but especially during a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic. If the link is from a scammer, the link could download a virus or malware onto your computer or device.
Scam #3: Phone Calls & Texts
During this time of anxiety and uncertainty, you may be more inclined to answer all incoming texts or calls. However, be cautious of what calls and texts you’re responding to. Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers or those coming from suspicious country or area codes. If you do answer the phone and it’s a robocall, do not press any numbers or say anything into the receiver.
According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), scammers are using this opportunity to offer fake items over the phone including:
- Medicine to cure coronavirus
- Work-from-home opportunities
- At-home test kits
When it comes to scams relating to the current pandemic, you should treat every “quick fix” opportunity as something that’s too good to be true. As of early April, the FDA has not approved at-home test kits, and a vaccine, cure or preventative drug has not been put on the market.1 In addition, scammers may try to advertise that they’re selling in-demand items such as cleaning products, toilet paper or masks. If it’s not from an authorized seller or place of business you’ve frequented before, take caution.
Scam #4: Stimulus Checks
With the recent passing of legislation in multiple countries, some citizens have become eligible to receive financial assistance in the form of checks or rebates. This means that many people are eager for their money, and they may be less likely to question potential texts, emails or phone calls about government assistance. If you receive any type of communications regarding government money that’s coming your way, use the same caution you would regarding any other email, phone call or text.
During a time of heightened fear and anxiety, it’s important to remain wary of potential scams. Your personal and financial information are always at risk of getting into the wrong hands, but times like these can make us all more vulnerable than usual. If you educate and inform yourself of what to be aware of, you can help protect yourself and your loved ones from falling victim to something dangerous.
Beacon Hill Private Wealth is an independent, fee-only, fiduciary investment advisor providing evidence-based wealth planning solutions that simplify our clients' financial lives. Founder Tom Geoghegan, CFP®, MBA is also a member of the National Association of Personal Financial Advisors (NAPFA).
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