Stay Safe From COVID-19 Fraud
Updated September 23, 2020
While many of us worry about the wide-ranging effects of COVID-19, be aware that fraudsters are looking to take advantage.
Safeguarding your physical health is top of mind, but protecting your financial health should be a priority as well. Take steps to recognize and prevent common schemes, so your personal information does not fall into the wrong hands.
Scammers are working every angle, from unemployment scams to reports of fake COVID-19 testing sites. These scams are ever evolving and attempt to capitalize on any confusion, be it stimulus debit cards issued by the federal government or COVID-19 contact tracing.
Reports of fraud are skyrocketing. The Federal Trade Commission has received more than 205,000 reports of COVID-19 fraud, identity theft and other complaints with losses totaling $145 million from January through late September. The median fraud loss was $300.
Here are some of the most common scams, according to the American Bankers Association and government agencies.
- Unemployment scams. In a recent large-scale scam, imposters are filing false unemployment claims using other people’s personal information, causing delayed payments for those legitimately out of work. In some cases, they are having the unemployment funds deposited into the correct person's account then asking that person to transfer the money to them by posing as a friend or government agency.
- Relationship scams. This happens when people you otherwise don’t know strike up a relationship online through a dating site or social media. Once trust is established, they ask for money or personal information, including bank accounts and Social Security number. Or they could ask to have money deposited into your account (via an unemployment scam) then ask you to transfer it to them.
- Stimulus check or economic relief scams. Multiple government agencies have posted warnings on their websites about active scams. Federal agencies do not request donations from the general public. Nor will they speed up relief money or give grants to anyone in exchange for a fee or a charge of any kind.
- Charity scams. Fraudsters seek donations for organizations that don’t exist.
- Provider scams. Scammers impersonate hospital staff and demand payment for a friend or relative being treated for COVID-19.
- Malware delivery. Emails or links pointing to virus-tracking apps or sensationalized news reports may contain malware that then infects your device.
- Bank/FDIC scams. Fraudsters claim they work for your bank and that there are security or access issues, and they need your bank account number and other information immediately.
- Investment scams. Someone claiming that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent or cure COVID-19 and that you should invest.
Here are some best practices to avoid becoming a victim of fraud during or after the COVID-19 pandemic.
- Do not give out your personal information, including banking information or Social Security number to anyone you do not know.
- Watch for fake websites and go directly to trusted URLs instead of using links from social media or other places.
- Watch for spoofed emails meant to look like official organizations such as the CDC or World Health Organization, but which actually contain malware.
- Use only trusted sources for information about the virus, such as legitimate government sites with a .gov in the URL.
- Use caution with all links and attachments; hover over links before clicking to see where they go.
- Research charities before making a donation. Be wary of any organization asking for donations in cash, by wire transfer or gift card.
- Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Defend against viruses, malware and other online threats by keeping your security software, web browser and operating system updated. Turn on automatic updates so you get the newest fixes right away.
- Trust your instincts. If something seems suspicious or causes you to question, stop your interactions with that person or website right away. Always proceed with caution when handing over personal information.
How to Report Fraud
To protect yourself and others, use these resources to report fraud. If you suspect fraud on any of your Saratoga National Bank accounts, contact us right away.
For more information, visit the Federal Trade Commission's dedicated page.