The metamorphosis of the pandemic has taught us a new way of living. By far, it has created a new world order by redefining the crisis and the meaning of quarantine. While countries are finding ways to recover from the pandemic while masked, the financial crooks are taking advantage of the new world order by taking advantage of the uncertainties. The financial scams during the pandemic have bought about disruption in everyone’s lifestyle allowing new ways for fraudsters to exploit the opportunity.
The uncertainties and challenges bought about by the pandemic have opened a new window of opportunity for thieves, fraudsters, scammers, and robocallers. As the federal government is helping Americans with stimulus checks while millions of people are filing for unemployment, hackers are waiting for the opportune moment to target our struggling lifestyles. Many federal establishments are well aware of these activities; for example, The Department of Labor for New York has issued a warning to help prevent Unemployment Insurance Benefits Fraud. Let’s take a look at some of the popular schemes that are taking place and ways to protect them.
While the entire world is struggling to search for a vaccine to find a cure for Covid19, scammers are taking the opportune moment to come up with their solution. In a Twitch stream from KITBOGA also a YouTuber whose channel primarily focuses on scambaiting highlighted a scammer trying to sell essential oils to help cure covid19. The FTC has issued several warnings advising users not to fall for these companies (see below) trying to sell products to help heal the disease.
The seven companies are:
- Vital Silver
- Aromatherapy Ltd.
- GuruNanda, LLC
- Vivify Holistic Clinic
- Herbal Amy LLC
- The Jim Bakker Show
What can you do:
Hang up the Phone, Try recalling the person again: One of the most effective ways to deal with scammer calls is to simply hang up the phone and call them back again on the same number. Most scam callers use VOIP (Voice Over Internet Protocol) technology to route calls to scam you. Since the number is routed, redialing the phone number will more than likely result in no response. Another precautionary measure is to call the institution’s customer service department, and request details of the last call made to you was truly from them.
The shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) and increased demand for hygienic products has bought about fraudsters trying to take advantage of the new market. Fraudsters often try to replicate websites and try to sell head covers, face masks, gowns, goggles, gloves, etc. to gain access to your financial information.
What Can you do:
Check the website before you click on it: It is always a best practice to check the website you are accessing to make sure it is trusted and a legitimate website. Another best practice is to compare prices of similar products to make the sound judgment whether the product sold on the fraudulent website is not excessively cheap. The website URL also helps in hinting whether it is legitimate or not. For example, if the website ends in .co or .ma instead of .com or .org, then there may be something not right about the website.
While economists and financial gurus struggle to define an economic model to help predict the outcome of the pandemic, the stock market has shown some positive fluctuations on recovery hopes and vaccine news. Investors are taking the opportunity to buy stocks while they are cheap. The Securities and Exchange Commission has issued a warning for fraudulent scams that are making false claims to control and stop the coronavirus outbreaks. Dishonest internet marketers are promoting false information claiming products from publicly traded companies can help cure coronavirus, thus helping boost the stock price of the company.
What Can you do:
The potential of fraud always exists when these types of promotional content are readily available to help increase the stock price and let the fraudsters benefit at your expense. Sometimes, the fraudulent information portrayed is simply based on speculation and not concrete results, thus adding to the complexity of the scam. It is best to use sound judgment when in doubt, before making a significant investment in stocks based on falsified information. A good practice is to reach out and confirm with the company on the existence of such products before making your investment choices.
The federal government has pushed the deadline to file taxes for Americans to help cope with the uncertainties of the pandemic allowing for the financials criminals a reasonable window to help exploit the situation with tax-related scams.
Tax scammers often pretend to be an IRS agent and take advantage of your fear while dealing with an authoritative figure claiming that you have filed your taxes incorrectly. They will demand money in the form of gift cards in place of not having you arrested for committing fraud with the IRS.
What can you do:
Tax-related scams during the pandemic can be prevented by using sound judgment. As a precaution, IRS will never contact you by phone before they have provided you with written notices regarding your taxes. If you have any concerns or if you ever receive a call from an IRS agent threatening you, the best way to handle the situation is to hang up the phone and reach out to your local IRS office to confirm and clarify the situation.
The best offense if the best defense, so it is recommended that you, as an individual, use sound judgment and precaution to help mitigate the risk of fraud. The advent of money flowing from the government to the citizens has led to new innovative ways to target the most vulnerable amongst us. Personal information is at stake, and only you can help prevent it from being stolen.
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