COVID-19 has changed our lives. We worry about ourselves or loved ones becoming infected. When will the pandemic end? We grapple with financial uncertainty. What will our community and our family experience until we reach a state of the new “normal”? We don’t know what normal involves. For most of us, ambiguity is uncomfortable. We look for a way to gain control and make the situation less anxiety-provoking for ourselves and our loved ones.
Scammers exploit this anxiety. The financial exploitation of older adults has increased. Below are some of the more common scams that the Federal Trade Commission and watch dog groups such as the AARP have been monitoring.
- Scammers are claiming to be selling test kits, surgical and household cleansers. They use Robocalls, texts, or social media ads to get your attention. While your goal may be to protect your family, their goal is to have access to your banking information.
- Beware of texts and emails offering vaccination against COVID-19. Trials of potential vaccines have begun, but as of July 27, 2020, there are no approved vaccines against the Coronavirus.
- If someone contacts you to sell a cure for the Coronavirus, it is a scam. As of today, there are no cures for COVID-19. Be very wary of pitches that include terms like “ancient remedy,” “natural cure,” “new discovery,” “scientific breakthrough.” These purported cures include products such as teas, essential oils, cannabinol, and intravenous vitamin C.
- Insurance fraud is on the rise. In this scenario, an older adult will receive a phone call from someone who offers to sell them a supplemental insurance policy. The caller will attempt to persuade you by saying that this protection is necessary for your family during this time of the pandemic. They will ask for your Medicare number or banking information.
- Fake charity scams: the caller will start by explaining the so-called organization’s mission, sharing a story, and then asking if you would support their agency’s work. Sometimes they may even use names of legitimate and commonly known nonprofits. They are trying to obtain your banking information.
- Social Security scam attempts are occurring. SSA will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. The Social Security Administration will not notify you by telephone if there are any issues with your benefits.
- Scammers are attempting to defraud people using the Economic Impact (stimulus) payments. The IRS will not contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media with information about your stimulus payment, or ask you for your banking information or your Social Security number. You will not receive a phone call from the IRS informing you of an over-payment and giving you instructions on how to do a reimbursement. Payments cannot be expedited.
- Loneliness has become routine for some of us who are socially isolating or self -quarantined. People turn to pets for companionship leading to a doubling in “puppy” scams. Bogus breeders are selling nonexistent animals. Often, they will include costs such as crating, vaccinations, and providing care to the animal. Search for local or regional breeders, or contact your local animal shelter. Do not pay for an animal sight unseen.
The above list is not meant to be all-inclusive. Scammers have the creativity and technical expertise to invent new types of attempts at fraud.
- What can you do to prevent becoming a victim of fraud?
- Don’t respond to texts, emails, or telephone calls about checks from the government
- Investigate charities before donating.
- Never give out your Social Security number, banking information, or Medicare identification number.
- Do not make payments using cash or gift cards. These methods of reimbursement can’t be traced. Payments using Venmo or Zelle are challenging to track.
- Do not open attachments from unknown or suspicious emails or links sent in texts.
- Always hang up on Robocalls.
- Launching a quiz or game app may give its creators permission to use your profile information. Hackers can use this data to hijack your identity. How badly do you want to take that quiz?
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
arrangeCARE staff has expertise in fraud management and prevention for the elderly. When you need a professional to consult on financial fraud, act as an expert witness, and work hands-on with elders who have been abused via fraud, give us a call at 512-814-3228. We collaborate with other professionals to help resolve the issue.
Please report any potential or actual scams to the Federal Trade Commission. You can use the FTC complaint assistant found at ftc.gov/complaint or by phone at 1-877-382-4357 (9:00 AM – 8:00 PM, ET). The FTC accepts complaints about most scams. Let’s watch out for each other.