Scammers will take any opportunity to come up with new ways to take your money or private information, even amid a worldwide pandemic. The FiftyForward Victory Over Crime Program wants you to have all the information you need to keep yourself safe. The following helpful facts and tips from FiftyForward and the Federal Trade Commission will help you protect yourself from scammers who are using the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic to prey on others.
There have been reports of scam text messages and scam robocalls offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance, and preying on virus-related fears. A text message scam may falsely advertise a cure or an offer to be tested for coronavirus.
Never click on links online, in emails, or texts, related to the virus, and check with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention or “CDC” by visiting cdc.gov/coronavirus for the most current information. Clicking on unknown links can download viruses to your computer that can be used to steal your personal information.
Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls.
Do not respond to online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Currently, there are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus (COVID-19) — online or in stores. There are currently no FDA-authorized home test kits for the coronavirus.
Only buy from verified online retailers. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning supplies, toilet paper, facemasks but they do not. If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for any of your personal or financial information while you’re browsing, don’t reply or follow the link. Legitimate online retailers don’t ask for information that way.
Never respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details of stimulus benefits are still being worked out. Know that the government would not ask you to give money upfront to access those benefits. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does this is a scammer.
If you are considering donating, do your homework, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Research contact information for the organization on your own and contact them directly to verify. You can also verify an organization’s legitimacy by visiting www.give.org or www.guidestar.org. Don’t let anyone rush you into donating. Take your time and use your critical thinking skills. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
If you believe you may have been a victim of any of the above scams, please call FiftyForward’s Victory Over Crime Program at 615-743-3417. The Victory Over Crime program provides direct support services to those 50+ who have been affected by crime.
Submitted by Ashley Hunter, FiftyForward Victory Over Crime Director