Avoiding Coronavirus Financial Scams: Everything You Need to Know
The coronavirus pandemic has found a way to affect our lives in almost every imaginable way. But one often overlooked area is in the realm of financial scams. Unfortunately, some fraudsters have taken advantage of vulnerable people during these times in order to benefit themselves financially.
So in response to these threats, we decided to put together a well-researched and comprehensive resource that sheds light on all of the major types of coronavirus financial scams facing the public.
The infographic below will explain the different forms that the scams occur in and offer you practical advice on how to avoid such scams. And in the unlucky event you find yourself a victim of one of the scams, we’ve provided all of the relevant authorities that you can reach out to in order to get assistance.
COVID-19 FDIC AND Bank Scams
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received reports of fraudulent communications that have the appearance of being from this agency. Fraudsters know that people trust the FDIC name, so scammers use the FDIC’s name and logo, and even the names of actual employees, in perpetrating fraudulent schemes.
These scams may involve a variety of communication channels, including emails, phone calls, letters, text messages, faxes, and social media. The messages might ask you to “confirm” or “update” confidential personal financial information, such as bank account numbers. In other cases, the communication might be an offer to help victims of current or previous frauds with an investigation to recover losses.
Prevention Tips Against FDIC COVID-19 Scams
Tip – The FDIC Does not send unsolicited correspondence asking for money or sensitive personal information, and will never threaten you.
Tip – No government agency will ever demand that you pay by gift card, wiring money or digital currency.
Tip – The FDIC would never contact you asking for personal details, such as bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, social security numbers or passwords.
COVID-19 Stimulus Check & Economic Payment Scams
The IRS recommends financial institutions to remind their customers about the importance of practicing sound personal cybersecurity, to remain vigilant to illicit account use and creation, and to report potential crimes to either federal, state or local law enforcement officials. Scammers are using stimulus payments to try to rip people off. They might try to get you to pay a fee to get your stimulus payment. Or they might try to convince you to give them your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number.
IRS Prevention Tips for avoiding COVID-19 Stimulus Payment Scams
Tip – Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never in response to a call, text or email.
Tip – The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text message or social media with information about your stimulus payment.
Tip – The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.
Tip – Regarding Website Scams – If you find a website that claims to be the IRS and suspect it is fraudulent, send the URL of the suspicious site to phishin[email protected] with he subject line “Suspicious Website”.
Tip – Watch for any unexplainable charges to your financial accounts. If you believe your accounts may be compromised, contact your financial institution immediately and close those accounts.
Tip – Regarding Email Scams – If you read an email claiming to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on the attachments and / or links. Forward the email as-is to [email protected] and delete the original email.
Tip – To keep up-to-date on the latest scams go to consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts and click on the “get email updates” link.
COVID-19 Gift Card Scams
Gift card scams are one of the most common types of money stealing scams. Criminals will impersonate a person of authority, government official, or charity service and use social engineering techniques to persuade their victim into buying a gift card and providing the codes on the back in order to steal its value. It is important to never supply any person or agency the gift card numbers on the back of the physical card, or the electronic claim code that comes along with an online gift card purchase. Government officials and law enforcement will never ask for a gift card code to cover any expenses. If a supervisor or colleague requests a gift card purchase, don’t respond to the email. Instead, contact the individual through a known good email address or phone number.
Tip – According to the FTC, if you paid a scammer with a gift card, report it as soon as possible. Call the card company and tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Then tell the FTC about it – or any other scam – at FTC.GOV/COMPLAINT Your reports may help law enforcement agencies launch investigations that could stop imposters and other fraudsters in their tracks.
COVID-19 Financial Scam Reporting and Assistance Contacts
FBI – Internet Crime Complaint Center
Description: The IC3 provides the public with a reporting mechanism to submit internet-facilitated COVID-19 financial scams to the FBI. Submitted information is analyzed and disseminated for investigative and intelligence purposes to law enforcement and for public awareness.
FTC Complaint Assistant
Description: Report COVID-19 financial scams through the FTC complaint assistant. There, you will be asked to choose a category and sub-category for your complaint.
FBI – Field Office Locator
Description: The FBI has field offices located in metro areas across the U.S. and Puerto Rico. Each office is overseen by a special agent, except for offices in LA, NYC and D.C., which are headed by an assistant director in charge.
U.S. Secret Service Domestic Field Offices
Description: Secret Service agents, professionals and specialists work in field offices around the world to fight financial crimes. The Secret Service investigates credit card fraud, wire and bank fraud, computer network breaches, ransomware, and other cyber-enabled financial crimes.
Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
Description: The TIGTA provides quality, professional audit, investigative and inspection and evaluation services that promote integrity, economy, and efficiency in the administration of the Nation’s tax system.
National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF)
Description: the mission of the NCDF is to improve and further the dection, prevention, investigation, and prosecution of fraud related to natural and man-made disasters, and to advocate for the victims of such fraud.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General
Description: OIG accepts complaints from all sources about potential financial fraud.
Daniel Gillaspia is the Founder of UponArriving.com and the credit card app, WalletFlo. He is a former attorney turned travel expert covering destinations along with TSA, airline, and hotel policies. Since 2014, his content has been featured in publications such as National Geographic, Smithsonian Magazine, and CNBC.