“Fraudsters follow the headlines,” warns AARP. The headlines these days are, of course, dominated by the COVID-19 pandemic, so crooks are trying to leverage our fear, uncertainty, and even our good intentions associated with the virus to steal our money or personal information.
Just by the third week of April, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had received more than 25,000 consumer complaints related to the outbreak, including nearly 14,000 fraud complaints. Victims have reported losing $19.3 million, with a median loss of $556.
“Officials say they have received reports of text, email, call, recorded message, and social media attempts to sell fake COVID-19 testing kits, bogus cures, pills that promise immunity, masks that will never be delivered, or heating and air conditioning duct cleaning to ‘protect’ an individual's family from the virus,” WNEY-TV reports. “Scammers are also seeking donations to sham charities, claiming they will provide stimulus funds for those who enter their bank account number, and offering free testing kits in an effort to collect personal and health insurance data.”
Here’s some timely advice from the Federal Trade Commission on how to protect yourself and your family from unscrupulous operators:
- Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There are no products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
- Be wary of ads for test kits. Hang up on robocalls.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information. And don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.