Difficult times create the perfect time in the mind of a scammer for mischief that can cost you money and time. Be alert to these scams that could be coming your way when you need it the least.
A coronavirus test. Tests are hard to come by, challenging to do properly, in short supply, and strictly limited to healthcare facilities facilities. The CDC is the only one making tests available and they only sell to clients buying in wholesale. If someone has a test to sell you, they are either lying to you or they stole the test intended for critically ill patients in hospitals. Bonus: if they come to your door, they really don’t have the test or any common sense.
Treatments to sell you. Nope. There are a few therapies in testing now at world-class healthcare organizations in the US and others around the world. A few companies are also working on vaccines and other therapies. But they will need months, possibly years to get through all the possibilities. And they won’t have time to see if you want a dose.
Invest in a cure. Also nope. Again, the level of investment in the cure that will emerge is huge, in the billions of dollars. Someone calling you up asking for $100 is just going to cure his thirst at your expense. The cure will come. Keep your money in your pocket. The CDC and Johns Hopkins University or the World Health Organization are not calling investors directly.
Fake charities. Just no. Tragedies bring out the worst in some because they bring out the best in so many of us. Do not give your money to anyone other than a charity you have a direct relationship with like the church you attend, a group you have worked with or benefited from, or someone big like the Red Cross. You can always check an organization’s status on Guidestar.org for free. Legitimate organizations have to file paperwork with the IRS, they have a track record and file who they helped every year.
Price-Gouging. Sometimes market prices do go up in a crisis, like eggs and pork are labor-intensive and not as much can be processed without full staff. Those prices will go up. But if one retailer is charging $40 for a bottle of hand sanitizer, they are gouging people to profit from this difficult situation.
Cyberscams. These can be harder to see coming because they can come from a variety of directions. Someone might set up emails that look like they are from your bank or use a list they hacked from the hospital with health news. The bottom line is that they are looking to part you with personal data they can use to drain a bank account. Verify. Change your passwords. Ask for identification from any customer service person who calls. Use the 800-number on your bank cards to verify that the request for information is legitimate.
Games and Apps. We’ve got little else to do now so scammers are creating apps they want you to download pretending they have up-to-date information about the virus or news or infection maps. You don’t need the app. You don’t need the risk. The app then can get other personal data from your phone or tablet and then steal your money or your identity in the future. Don’t download junky looking apps or click on suspicious ads. If you want information, turn on the radio. Ruby Radio is doing Public Health Updates every hour.
Workers Comp and Insurance Scams targeting businesses. This couldn’t be a worse time for businesses and with all the confusing paperwork floating around, one scam about employee insurance might get through. Be vigilant. Check your paperwork. Be sure you know who is getting materials you are sending around. Don’t email sensitive paperwork – ask your bank or lender for a secure site to upload your info. And don’t volunteer information about your business.
If you do think you’re being scammed, report them to Nevada’s new Covid-19 taskforce. U.S. Attorney Nicholas Tratanich and Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford formed a Nevada COVID-19 Task Force this week. The team is made up of experts who have tackled general fraud, heath care fraud, Medicaid fraud, insurance fraud, workers’ compensation fraud and cybercrime.
If you have been victimized, contact the Attorney General’s Office and the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or by e-mailing the NCDF at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fifteen agencies are a part of this Task Force including:
• U.S. Attorney’s Office
• Office of the Nevada Attorney General
• Federal Bureau of Investigation
• U.S. Secret Service
• Internal Revenue Service – Criminal Investigation
• Drug Enforcement Administration
• U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of Inspector General
• Department of Veterans Affairs’ Office of Inspector General
• Department of Education Office of Inspector General
• Small Business Administration Office of Inspector General
• U.S. Postal Inspection Service
• Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration
• Nevada’s Secretary of State’s Office
• Washoe County Sheriff’s Office
• Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department
For tips on how to avoid falling victim to these scams, click here. Good luck.