Americans Lose Millions in COVID19 Fraud Scams: How do you protect yourself?

The COVID19 pandemic has provided an opportunity for scammers looking to take advantage of the situation.   

According to a recent blog published by Paul Witt the leading data analyst from the Federal Trade Commission Division of Consumer Response and Operations claims COVID-19 scams have cost more than 18,000 Americans a total of $13.4 million since the beginning of the year. The top fraud categories are related to travel and vacations, online shopping, bogus text messages, and imposter scams.  If you’re getting calls, emails or texts related to the coronavirus, or seeing related ads or offers online, here are some things to remember:

  • The government will never call to ask for money or your personal information like Social Security, bank account or credit card numbers.
  • Anyone who tells you to pay by Western Union or Money Gram, or by putting money on a gift card, is a scammer. The government and legitimate businesses will never tell you to pay with those methods.
  • Caller may pose as a financial institution or a bank and try to scare you into transferring funds. 

Important to Remember:

  • Don’t answer phone calls that are unfamiliar to you.  Let the caller leave a message and fact check its contents.
  • Don’t clink on any email or text message links that are unfamiliar. You may expose yourself to a virus on your device. Contacts listed in your device will be identified.
  • Updated information on a local or national level will be posted on official government websites.  You can also find information and resources on your local city website.
  • Call the NCIS COVID-19 Fraud/Scam Hotline at 1-800-386-8762 to report anything suspicious, or get clarity on any communications you are unsure of. 

If you are unsure about any unsolicited contact, never give personal information, financial information, social security number or anything else that could be used against you.  Rather you should get the caller’s information and verify by contacting the institution directly. DO NOT use the contact number the caller provided. Finally, you can call your local police to report any suspicious circumstances by calling 9-1-1.

Sources:  

Iacurci, Greg (April 15, 2020). Americans have lost $13.4 million to fraud linked to Covid-19. https://www.cnbc.com/2020/04/15/americans-have-lost-13point4-million-to-fraud-linked-to-covid-19.html

Coronavirus Financial and Identity Scams (April 2020 Issue p. 6). Elk Grove Villager.

About Dr. Lynn Atkinson Tovar

Dr. Lynn Atkinson Tovar is a professor of Justice, Law and Public Safety Studies at Lewis University in Illinois. The former commander has done research on teen relationships and technology as well as abusive relationships. Her book "Smart Teen, Safe Teen: Respecting Relationships in Your Social Digital Life " is available at https://amzn.to/2HJsuNE

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