Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters take advantage of people when the majority of people are at their most vulnerable. Crisis and financial hardship are two of the most ideal times for fraudsters to attack, because they know the average citizen is just trying to figure out how to make a bad situation better.
Here are common scams that you should be on the watch for:
Charity Scams: Fraudsters ask you for donations for organizations and causes that are really illegitimate or non-existent.
Provider Scams: Scammers contact you acting like a doctor or hospital staff. They tell you that a loved one has been treated for a recent sickness and you owe them payment.
Bank/FDIC Scams: Scammers reach out and say they work for the FDIC or your bank. They inform you that banks are starting to limit access to your deposits or that there are security issues with your bank deposits. Their end goal is to retrieve your personal banking information.
Phishing and Supply Scams: You are contacted by a health organization or business claiming they have access to important medical testing kits, supplies, vaccines, or even medical cures. What they want is for you to provide valuable personal information, like credit card numbers, banking accounts, medical information, or more.
Stimulus Check or Economic Relief Scams: When the government provides stimulus checks or unemployment funding scammers will contact you posing as a government employee or the IRS. You will be told the only way to receive your money is be being assessed a fee or by providing your private banking information. In reality, the IRS already should already have your direct deposit information or address to send a check based on your past tax returns.
Online Malware: You go online to browse and research a current crisis or event. While doing so you click on a website that seems legitimate, but in reality it places malware on your computer that allows fraudsters to take over your computer and steal your private information.
Investment Scams: Often styled as “research reports,” you’ll be contacted by someone claiming that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure deadly diseases. They want you to make an investment in their company so they can help fight the disease, when really they will just walk away with your money.
10 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim
- Remember, the safest place for your money is in the bank. You get the comfort of knowing that your funds are secure and insured by the government when you deposit your money at a bank. Having your money outside the banking system, like physical cash or outside investments, does not allow you the same level of protection as having it in the bank.
- Do a little research before making a donation. Be wary of any business, charity, or individual that contacts you about payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Legitimate places will offer multiple steps of validation, so be sure to call the national or regional office if you are unsure.
- Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use common forms of communication, like emails, texts, phone calls, and even websites, to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments from sources you are not familiar with. Also, be sure to never give your password, account number, or PIN to anyone.
- Enable multi-factor authentication for accounts that support it. Within the security settings for a lot of accounts is the availability to add a multi-factor authentication (MFA). This creates a second step to verify who you are when logging in, often by sending a one-time text code or answering very specific questions only you’d know the answer to.
- Ignore offers for vaccines, cures, or treatments. If there is a medical breakthrough, it wouldn’t be reported through unsolicited emails or online ads. Always do your research before being contacted about something like this.
- Rely on official sources for the most up-to-date information during times of crisis. Visit official, government-backed websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), the Department of Treasury (DOT), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and even your state’s department websites to keep track of the latest developments.
- Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Make sure your computer and mobile device security software, web browser, and operating systems have the most recent updates to best defend against viruses, malware, and other online threats. If able, turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
- Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Fraudsters and cybercriminals embed easy-to-click links to downloaded malware, causing your device to become infected without you even knowing it. The easiest way to detect bad links is to hover over the link to view the actual URL that you are being routed to. The fraudulent URL link will often mimic a real, trustworthy link, but it will have slight differences. Here’s an example of what to look out for: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com.
- Educate yourself before making any investments. Remember, during times of crisis there is also a high potential for fraud. Be very wary of any company claiming to be helping those in need or ability to prevent, detect or cure diseases. For information on how to avoid investment fraud, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.
- Help others by reporting scams. Visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov to report suspected or confirmed scams. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest scams by visiting the FTC’s page at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.