While it continues to inflict physical harm, the coronavirus has also served as an opportunity for scammers to bilk cash out of the naïve and uninformed around the world.
Taking notice is Richard Lee, who has watched and heard about many phony offerings from his role as the crime prevention officer for the South Pasadena Police Department.
“With the stay-at-home order still in effect, many residents may look to find a job at home,” explained Lee in a SPPD Neighborhood Watch newsletter, noting that thieves are always on the lookout for new victims.
COVID-19 scams come in many forms, but Lee says the bottom line is they want a person’s money or access to funds by acquiring personal data, including bank account information or a Social Security number. He warns they’re trying to do nothing more than fool individuals in revealing their financial details.
“One of the most common work at home scams is when the scammer advertises an online job for a secretary, or personal assistant for a company that is expanding,” said Lee. “The scammer states that the victim just needs to ‘process’ paperwork and promises good pay.”
Lee said the victim applies for the job, “and almost immediately the scammer sends a large check to the victim to deposit into her/his own bank account. The scammer instructs the victim to send a portion of the amount to another person (often out of state or in another country). The victim later discovers the check is fraudulent and the victim’s money is gone!”
The SPPD police officer stressed, to “not be tempted by get rich quick schemes.”
Illegal robocalls are reaching consumers with everything from phony low-priced health insurance to fake donation sites.
To avoid becoming a victim, Lee stressed checking a company’s background, never provide personal bank accounts, and be cautious about sending funds out of the country.
“Remember law enforcement agencies have no jurisdiction outside the U.S.,” he said.
Advice from the Federal Trade Commission:
• Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government.
• Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There are no products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.
• Be wary of ads for test kits. The FDA recently announced approval for one home test kit, which requires a doctor’s order. But most test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA, and aren’t necessarily accurate.
• Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC Centers of Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information.
• Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
• Hang up on robocalls.