By Det. Lt. John Nagle
Scammers are using the coronavirus pandemic to their advantage. They are using the fear and anxiety caused by the virus to steal money and information from unsuspecting victims. Covid-19 has affected all of us and these scammers are no exception. Many of their call centers had to be temporarily closed due to the virus. But the criminals are now adapting, and their call centers are coming back online.
If you receive a call offering a COVID -19 kit or Medicare benefits related to the virus it is a scam. Do not give out any personal information to anyone over the phone or internet unless you absolutely know who you are speaking to. Scammers can spoof their phone number to make it appear like it is coming from a government agency or public utility. They can also make e-mails appear to be from the actual agency or company. If you are unsure about the call or email and they are asking for personal information hang up.
Be very careful when answering e-mails that appear to be from your bank or government agency or a possible job opportunity. College students should be on the lookout for recent emails promising to lower their student loan rates. Once you click on the link contained in these e-mails you are redirected to a website that is meant to mimic the real site. Once you are there, they will request personal information including bank account numbers, social security information or even your Medicare information. If you are not sure about the origin of an e-mail, simply contact the company directly. Do not use the links supplied in the e-mail.
The FBI reported that it has received more than 3,600 complaints related to COVID-19 scams. Many of these scams operated from websites that advertised fake cures, vaccinations and news from public health organizations. These types of scams will certainly be on the rise in the weeks to come. Be extremely careful whenever you are asked to give anyone your personal information.
People cannot get out and socialize right now and online dating sites could be a great way to meet that perfect someone. Romance can blossom but it is also the perfect situation for scammers to do their work. Due to the pandemic, these scammers have the perfect alibi on why they cannot meet you in person. The moment they ask you for money know you are being scammed.
The pandemic of 2020 will be remembered as a horrible and frightening time for all of us. We will all get through this pandemic and we will do so as a community. History shows us that after horrible events such as 9/11 and Hurricane Sandy that communities came together. These events brought out the best in people.
Unfortunately, for a small percentage of criminals, it brought out the worst. After Hurricane Sandy, scammers tried to defraud insurance companies and unscrupulous handymen tried to rip off homeowners. After Sept. 11 scammers set up fraudulent online accounts to raise money for first responders. Scammers are now attempting to capitalize on the COVID pandemic.
Remember the quote, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” by Benjamin Franklin. It sure does stand the test of time. Remember, we will all get through this together. Until next time, stay safe everyone.