(AmericanProsperity.com) – While many Americans are struggling financially through the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are flourishing. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), 18,235 Americans have succumbed to $13.4 million in COVID-19-related scams since January 1. The one thing everyone can be certain of in these uncertain times is the scams aren’t going to stop.
It’s important to know what scams are out there as fraudsters attempt to trick you into giving away sensitive data like your Social Security number and bank information. If you suspect that something is wrong, it probably is. Trust your instincts and contact your local police immediately if you think someone has tried to scam you or you think you could be a victim.
The top scam categories are related to online shopping, bogus text messages, and travel and vacations. Here’s a breakdown of the most recent pandemic-related scams to avoid.
One-time payments of up to $1,200 per person, $2,400 per married couple, and $500 per dependent child under 17 have started to be directly deposited into bank accounts by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). In May, checks will be mailed to those who prefer that method of payment.
Scammers are working overtime to convince you to provide your bank account number to ensure you get paid. Please don’t fall for it. If you’ve qualified for the payment, you don’t need to do anything.
The IRS will not call, email, or text to ask for your information. Your 2018 or 2019 tax returns will be used to determine if you’ll receive payment via direct deposit or check. If you don’t file taxes, the IRS will communicate with the federal agency that pays your current benefits such as Social Security, disability, or veteran’s benefits.
If you want to learn the status of your stimulus check or provide the IRS with your information, you can do so via their website.
Coronavirus Product and Treatment Scams
Scammers are trying to prey on your fears. They want to convince you to buy products that can either detect, prevent, or treat COVID-19. However, there are currently no such products. A vaccine is still being developed, so anyone offering you a “cure” is trying to fool you.
Scammers will often use email or text messages to lure victims to a fake website. These websites might promise a test kit or experimental treatments, which are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has recently increased its enforcement of investment scams. Since February, the SEC has suspended the public trading of 16 companies’ stocks for making false claims related to vaccination cures, test kits, or other treatments promising to cure people form COVID-19.
Most of the scams are perpetrated by those involved with what’s called “penny stocks.” These are typically extremely small and new companies whose stock is worth less than $1. Bad actors will quickly inflate the share price by lying or exaggerating claims to entice people to buy the stock through email and social media. When the stock value hits a certain point, they sell it for massive profits and leave the investors with nothing. In some cases, investors not only lose money, but they could also owe money in the form of fees to brokerage firms.
Many people want to help those less fortunate than themselves and scammers know it. They may contact you claiming to work for a legitimate charity to request a donation. They may attempt to contact you through a phone call, email, or social media. Unfortunately, the money never reaches the charity and instead goes straight into their bank accounts.
Before donating to an organization through someone that contacts you, do some research. You can search the IRS Tax-Exempt Organization Search Tool. Look up their number directly and call them or visit their website to donate. Never give money over the phone, email, or through a social media contact. Scammers may give you a fake website that could attempt to steal personal info or hack into your computer.
In every crisis, scammers come out of the woods to prey on the goodwill of unsuspecting people. Take extra precautionary steps and research anything you’re not familiar with. We can’t stop every scam, but you can prevent yourself from becoming a victim.
~Here’s to Your Prosperity!
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