We’re months deep into the pandemic that has rocked the entire world. Unfortunately, there are those who would take advantage of this vulnerable time. Keep the following things in mind and protect yourself, your family and your financial well-being. Here are some of the pandemic scams to watch out for, and some general tips to protect yourself from financial scams in general.
The Small Business Loan Scam
This is contingent on another round of stimulus funding for small businesses, but worth mentioning just in case as it happened with the first round. Due to the Payroll Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, scammers took the opportunity to put up fake websites for small businesses to apply for the program, and then demanding a “down payment” just to apply. If you’re approached for something like this, check the URL of the gateway to apply. If it’s anything other than SBA.gov, click away and report it if possible.
The Expedited Stimulus Check Scam
Even though we’re in September, there are many Americans who are still waiting on their first round of checks and scammers are using that to their advantage. Even if you’ve already received yours, they’re clearly not operating with real data, taking shots in the dark with phone numbers.
They’re hoping the person on the other end hasn’t received their check yet, but may also lie and say you’re eligible for another one, or a mistake has been made, or say another one is coming and they’re getting it out ASAP. The big warning with this one is that many of these messages or calls sound very legitimate. If you haven’t received yours yet, wait. We know it’s difficult, but it’s better than getting scammed out of money you need.
The “No Risk Investment” Scams into Cures or Vaccines
There are billions of dollars circulating the world right now to try and create/discover cures and vaccines for COVID-19, and if you’ve been watching the markets, you know there’s a lot of economic volatility right now. Be extremely careful if someone calls you pretending to be a financial planner saying they have an incredible opportunity for you to invest in stock, hinged to the pandemic. They’ll make it sound urgent and legitimate, like a start-up company raising it’s first round for filtration devices or a cleansing agent. Just know that investment scams are all over the place right now and call us if you’re not sure.
This is probably the lowest-level scam out there as it preys on your goodwill, and is even easier to fall into with the existence of crowd-funding (think GoFundMe). Just like investment scams, donation scams explode during economically unstable times.
The Up-Front Stimulus Scam
If you receive a call or email saying you need to pay anything to get access to your stimulus check, ignore it/don’t click on any links. You will never have to pay anything to get your stimulus money.
Tips to Keep You Safe
-Never Google/search for a suspected scam URL. Many scammers go out of their way and create fake websites to make them seem legitimate. If it’s a company that claims it already knows you, you’ll already have a legitimate record of it and can search for it outside of the suspect email/text/call.
-Keep your webcam covered manually. Seriously - the biggest tech gurus even do it. It’s been well documented that hackers can get access to your computer/device through webcams (called “camfecting”), not just for information but also to spy on you to extort you in some way. While you’re at it, cover your microphone port, too. Check out this extensive guide from NordVPN to see how you can safeguard your computer.
-Change your passwords regularly.
-Don’t use unsecure networks when needing to transmit important data.
-Don’t click any link that comes from a suspicious source.
-Never use money from a check to send money orders, wire transfers or gift cards to people you just met. Tech scammers often will ask you to go to a store and get a gift card and tell them the code.
-Never accept checks that give more than the selling price (often a scam you’ll find on second-hand sites).