fbpx

According to the Federal Trade Commission, Americans have already lost an astonishing $77 million to pandemic-related scams.

The rise in our reliance on computers and electronic devices during the coronavirus outbreak has given cybercriminals additional opportunities to strike. The pandemic has also left many of us feeling more on edge and fatigued than usual. During these times of stress, we may be more vulnerable than under better circumstances.

Fraud Alert Be on the Lookout for these COVID-19 Scams

Avoid becoming the next victim by learning about popular cons and being on the lookout for them. 

Learn the warning signs of identity theft. In addition to the monetary hassles these scams cause, they can ultimately present an ever bigger problem: identity theft. One of the best ways to protect yourself from the excessive damage of identity theft is to be aware of its indicators. These signs could include getting bills for services you don’t use, having your debit card declined, seeing unauthorized bank transactions on your summary, or noticing unfamiliar activity on your credit report. If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, or are especially concerned about it, consider putting additional safeguards in place. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report that notifies lenders and creditors to take additional steps to verify your identification before they extend a credit line or loan in your name. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumers may place fraud alerts on their credit reports with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) free of charge for 90 days. You could also opt to use a credit monitoring service, which utilizes a mix of preventive and reactive tools to preserve your identity and credit. According to Consumer Affairs, LifeLock, TrustedID, and ProtectMyID are among the top-rated identity theft protection services.

Phony co-workers. Teleworking has become the new normal for many office workers during the pandemic. If you work remotely, use caution when responding to urgent and casual electronic requests for financial or personally identifying information, including passwords, from co-workers or bosses. As a rule, never share this information over a non-secure network. Instead, offer to call the requestor with the data or have them go through a more appropriate, secure channel.

Phishing scams. The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers about phishing emails and text messages, supposedly from contact tracers, warning that they’ve been exposed to someone with COVID-19. These communications often appear to be from real businesses or government agencies, but clicking on links or downloading attached files could import a program that spreads more malware, or digs into personal files looking for bank account passwords, social security numbers, and other information for purposes of identity theft. Messages from actual contact tracers working for public health agencies will not include a link or ask you for money or personal data.

Fraudulent charities. Fake charitable organizations abound in times of crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic is no different. Crowdsourcing platforms are lifesaving when they’re hosted by actual charities, but they can also be used to con a lot of kindhearted people into handing their money over to criminals.If you want to help financially, visit the organization’s website to make sure it’s legitimate and that your money will be used appropriately. And if you get a call following up on a donation pledge that you don’t remember making, be cautious–it could be a scam.

Coronavirus stimulus payment scams. Con artists are using the stimulus payments to try to rip people off in several ways. They may tell you that you need to pay a fee to get your stimulus payment. Or they might try to convince you to give them your Social Security number, bank account information, or government benefits debit card account number. Play it safe and only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS and never divulge information in response to a call, text, or email. The IRS will never contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media with information about your stimulus payment or ask you for personal information to obtain it.

Learn the warning signs of identity theft. In addition to the monetary hassles these scams cause, they can ultimately present an ever bigger problem: identity theft. One of the best ways to protect yourself from the excessive damage of identity theft is to be aware of its indicators. These signs could include getting bills for services you don’t use, having your debit card declined, seeing unauthorized bank transactions on your summary, or noticing unfamiliar activity on your credit report. If you think you’ve been the victim of identity theft, or are especially concerned about it, consider putting additional safeguards in place. You can place a fraud alert on your credit report that notifies lenders and creditors to take additional steps to verify your identification before they extend a credit line or loan in your name. Under the Fair Credit Reporting Act (FCRA), consumers may place fraud alerts on their credit reports with the three major credit bureaus (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) free of charge for 90 days. You could also opt to use a credit monitoring service, which utilizes a mix of preventive and reactive tools to preserve your identity and credit. According to Consumer Affairs, LifeLock, TrustedID, and ProtectMyID are among the top-rated identity theft protection services.

Miracle cures. Charlatans have been peddling snake oil cures since the dawn of time. Nobody wants to fall for these old tricks, but it can be tempting to believe that special elixirs can lessen COVID-19’s effects or that there’s a new vaccine available to a select few. Currently, there are no proven treatments that can cure or prevent the disease. Be wary of websites, emails, and text messages from companies or individuals claiming to have the “magic solution”. Scammers design these pitches to lure victims into a false sense of trust and a deceptive sense of urgency. In many cases, the item may never arrive, might fail to work, or could even be harmful to your health. Unless the advice comes from your health care professional or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, ignore it.

Be extra vigilant during these times of uncertainty. Fraudsters are busier than ever right now, but you don’t have to fall prey to their scams.Follow the tips outlined above to safeguard your privacy, security, and finances during this challenging period.

Rest assured, FAI Wealth Management takes data security seriously.

We recognize that our industry is particularly vulnerable to scams, data breaches, and cybercrimes. To curtail these threats, we have implemented leading-edge digital security measures and have robust emergency preparedness plans in place. Safeguarding your sensitive information is always our greatest priority.

Do you want to learn more about how to protect yourself from pandemic-related scams? Our knowledgeable advisors are here with the resources you need. Please contact us anytime.

About FAI Wealth Management, Inc.: Located in Columbia, Maryland, FAI focuses on helping clients create the financial future they desire by protecting their wealth, making the most of their assets, and planning for life’s uncertainties. The firm combines fee-only, fiduciary-driven guidance with highly personalized, consultative financial planning and investment services that enable individuals, families, and businesses to navigate complex life transitions. Founded in 1987, FAI currently manages more than $350 million in client assets nationwide. For more information about FAI Wealth Management, please visit the website at https://www.faiwealth.com or call 410.715.9200.