Amid the fear and frenzy surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, we have witnessed the best in our society stepping to the forefront to fight the virus that has brought the world to a standstill. Fred Rogers (also known as Mr. Rogers) once said:
“When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Unfortunately, while this situation has provided a call to action for the best of America, it has also presented an opportunity for the worst among us to take advantage. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued several alerts warning consumers of scam and predatory practices they are seeing in the marketplace. They are reporting fake charities asking for donations, robocalls reporting a new treatment available for COVID-19, text messages regarding impending lock downs and service companies providing cleaning and medical supplies.Follow the steps provided by the FTC below to safeguard yourself and family against these practices:
- 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, instead.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
It’s important to be on the alert for related identity theft scams. Scammers are professionals when it comes to sounding convincing and using fear or your better nature to convince you to give out personal and banking information. Avoid giving out this information to people who approach you, and there is a better chance you won’t be victimized.
Most importantly…get this information into the hands of senior citizens. These are the folks who are most likely to be targeted and the least likely to be able to identify a scam. Reach out to those you know and let them know the information above. Don’t assume that they know it or know how to detect a scam. This is a scary and emotional time. People, especially seniors, are desperate for information and assistance. A simple heads up can make the difference for this vulnerable portion of the population.
Source: The Federal Trade CommissionIf you still have questions or concerns regarding this topic, reach out to our retirement plan team experts—we would be happy to help.