As nations across the globe continue to deal with the spread of COVID-19, another threat looms along with the virus. Besides staying safe and healthy while social distancing, people across the country should now watch out for coronavirus scams.
Unfortunately, criminals monopolize on fear and uncertainty to prey upon society’s most vulnerable individuals, the elderly. These COVID-19 scams can come in multiple forms, including scams related to disability planning. Some even promise to detect or cure the virus. Others claim to offer financial assistance for those in need.
Scammers target victims through emails, phone calls, and letters. Separating real products and services from fake ones is not always easy.
What Are the Most Common Coronavirus Scams That Are Targeting Seniors?
Challenging times brings out the best and the worst in people. As soon as cases of the novel coronavirus were reported in the United States, scams followed quickly. In order to recognize a scam, it is important to review the most common coronavirus schemes reported to law enforcement agencies across the country.
How Can I Recognize a Fraudulent Home Test Kit?
For those who are fearful about going out in public, a quick and easy way to test for the virus at home seems ideal. Unfortunately, at this time, there are no proven methods to self-test for the virus or coronavirus antibodies. Anyone promising a way to accurately test for or cure the virus without a physician’s guidance is lying.
This scam is especially dangerous because false results can keep seniors from getting proper medical care, and they can potentially infect others if they are positive for COVID-19. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website for accurate and up-to-date information regarding coronavirus tests.
What Are Counterfeit Masks and Sanitizer Products?
With the onset of COVID-19, people quickly searched for face coverings and hand sanitizer. This was the perfect opportunity for scammers to capitalize on the lack of supplies. Online sellers promised masks, sanitizer, and disinfectants that they did not have.
Some buyers who did receive items found them to be poorly-made and ineffective at containing respiratory droplets that transmit COVID-19 to others. Fake disinfectants lacked germ-killing alcohol that is proven to kill the virus on hands and surfaces.
Watch Out for Fake Coronavirus Cures
Supplements, lotions, and devices promising to prevent or cure the virus are showing up everywhere. While it may be temping to try some of these options, they are too good to be true. It is important to remember that currently, there is no known cure for COVID-19 or a vaccine available to prevent it.
Save your money and focus on the things you can do to stay healthy, like washing your hands and wearing a mask when in public. If or when a cure or vaccine becomes available, contact your doctor to find out if either is right for you.
Should I Donate to Charities?
More than 40 million Americans have filed for unemployment because of the pandemic. With logjams on local unemployment websites across the country, so many people are facing significant financial hardships. As a result, fake charities are emerging. Giving is a wonderful thing; just be careful to make sure the organization you assist is legitimate, so your generous donations of money, food, and supplies reach those who really need them.
What is Stimulus Fraud?
Most Americans have already received funds from the federal government’s assistance package. Additionally, more help may be on the way in the form of checks, direct bank deposits, and prepaid debit cards.
The Federal Trade Commission warns consumers about scams that request your Social Security number, bank account information, or a fee in exchange for releasing your funds early. The Federal Trade Commission reminds seniors that the IRS will never contact you by phone, text, email, or social media regarding your stimulus check. Visit the IRS website for inquiries about your payment or to report a scam.
What Are Grocery Scams?
Seniors are at a greater risk of developing serious COVID-19-related health problems. That is why it is so important for older individuals to stay home and avoid stores and other places where large groups of people gather.
In what may be one of the cruelest scams of all, seniors are being targeted by people accepting payment to go grocery shopping and perform other errands for homebound individuals. They take the cash, but never return with the medications and food that they have been paid to deliver.
Are There Phishing Scams During This Time?
Phishing scams are nothing new; however, COVID-19 brought new fraudulent emails, websites, and texts from scammers hoping to gain access to your electronic devices and steal your information. These scams work by promising financial aid, cures, or locations of COVID-19 cases in your community.
When you click on links or download apps to get this information, you may actually be downloading malware. Malware scans your device for passwords, bank accounts, and another information criminals use to steal from you.
What Can I do to Avoid Coronavirus Scams?
The number of scams happening right now is daunting. It can make you hesitant about donating to a charity or asking for help. These scams are sophisticated, and criminals are hoping to access your information and sources of money. Scammers can access your money by stealing passwords, your Social Security number, and other information related to your bank and other accounts.
So, the most important thing you can do to avoid a coronavirus scam is to be careful about what you do with this sensitive information. Never give personal information over the phone, in a text, or in an email.
Here are a few more steps to take to protect your identity and your money from COVID-19 scammers:
- Do not answer calls or reply to texts from unknown numbers: Hang up on robocalls and do not respond to verbal prompts. Block suspicious numbers if your phone has that option.
- Be wary of anyone asking for immediate payment or personal information: This relates to any goods or services.
- Research charities and campaigns: Before donating to charities or GoFundMe campaigns, do a bit of research to ensure that they are legitimate.
- Do not click on suspicious links in emails or texts: Even if they appear to be sent from a friend or family member, do not click suspicious items. These links may contain malware that steals your personal data.
- Consider your sources for COVID-19-related news: Anyone can claim to know how to cure or prevent the virus, but trust reputable, science-based sources for accurate information.
- Be mindful of purchases: Whether you are buying groceries, masks, or other goods, purchase directly from an established company or ask a family member or friend to shop for you.
What Should I do if I Have Been Scammed?
If you suspect you have been the victim of a coronavirus scam, report it to the proper authorities. If it involves someone in your community, report it to local law enforcement.
For other types of fraud, notify the Federal Trade Commission. You can file a complaint online or by phone. Additionally, a trusted lawyer who practices elder law can also assess your situation and recommend the best legal course of action based on your case.
Brooklyn Elder Law Lawyers at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP Protect Seniors Who Have Been Victimized by Coronavirus Scams
If you trusted the wrong person and fell victim to a COVID-19 scam, you are not alone. Criminal schemes to obtain your personal information are more sophisticated than ever, making it tough to identify fraud. Our Brooklyn elder law lawyers at Korsinsky & Klein, LLP help clients with elder care and will address your concerns. After reviewing your case, we will recommend the best steps available to protect you. For an initial consultation, call us at 212-495-8133 or complete our online form. Located in Brooklyn, Manhattan, and Lakewood, New Jersey, we serve clients throughout New York and New Jersey.