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How To Avoid Coronavirus Scams

Scammers are cashing in on the Coronavirus hysteria. The FTC reports there are now over 13,000 COVID-19 scam complaints with $9.59M in fraud loss. From computers to cell phones, websites, and more, scammers are using all sorts of tricks to try and fool people! Scammers want to steal your money so they go for your personal and banking information. They entice people by offering cures, information, testing kits, masks, and more. Keep reading to see how you can avoid coronavirus scams.

How They Do It…

1.) Through Emails

Scammers inundate people’s inboxes with fake “awareness,” “prevention,” and “testing” information. Their end goal is for you to click on a link within the email or an attachment. By doing this you download malicious software onto your device. A Trojan downloader is installed which steals your personal information and data. These are called “phishing scams” These emails look like they’re coming from the CDC and WHO. Always check the email address of the sender because they usually include things like a misspelling of the company name.

2.) Through Text Messages

Scammers send text messages offering “treatments,” “quick money,” and “early access” to economic impact payments. These text messages may also look like they’re coming from a concerned neighbor telling you the government announced a mandatory lockdown and you should buy these supplies immediately. Additional text message scams include employment offers from Amazon and how to make $1,000 from your couch.

3.) Phone Calls

Scammers are targeting the elderly with phone calls offering free COVID-19 testing kits. To receive the kit, you must give your Medicaid number. Listen to this example from scammers offering fake tests for medicare recipients. Another robocall scam offers cleaning services such as HVAC duct cleaning to protect your home from the virus. Listen to this example from scammers offering sanitation products. Additional ones include calls from deep cleaning agencies offering germ and virus testing.

4.) Door Knocking

Scammers are canvasing neighborhoods dressed in white lab coats posing as CDC & WHO workers. They’re knocking on doors offering COVID-19 at home testing kits. The FDA says currently they have’t authorized any test kits that can be taken at home.

5.) Through Websites

Scammers are constantly creating malicious websites offering cures, protective gear, and virus trackers. Florida’s Attorney General warns about a site mimicking a legitimate virus tracker. Ashley Moody says these websites are spread through malicious email attachments and online advertisements.

How To Avoid These Scams…

1.) Never download or open attachments from email addresses you don’t recognize.

2.) Install antivirus software on your computer and make sure your phone’s software is up to date.

3.) Be on the lookout for fake CDC & WHO emails. You can spot a fake email by checking the email address. If it’s one letter off it could be from a scammer.

4.) Don’t believe vacation offers you receive through email, text messages, social media, or websites. Here are a list of companies the FTC warned for making claims.

5.) Do your research when donating to charities. The FTC has some great guidelines.

6.) Watch for fake investment opportunities.

7.) Use multi-factor authentication for accounts. Many devices or sites have a specific way to do this so google your device and multi-factor authentication.

8.) Only visit trusted websites for COVID-19 updates including the CDC, WHO, and Florida Health.

9.) Hang up on robocalls.

10.) Report scams: FTC.gov/complaint

Scammers are targeting the $2 trillion dollar stimulus relief package . This is an easy target for scammers because the package is new and people have questions. Launch has you covered on all fronts with the economic impact payment details and how you can avoid these scams.

                          Economic Impact Payment Information

1.) Do I have to do anything to receive payment?

The simple answer is no. The payments will be distributed automatically within three weeks. However, people who don’t typically file returns will need to submit a simple tax return to receive payment. The funds will be directly deposited into the same bank account reflected on your tax return.

2.) Am I eligible?

You’re eligible for the full amount if…

  • Individual adjusted gross income up to $75,000
  • Married couple joint adjusted gross income up to $150,000

3.) You’re eligible for some amount…

  • If you make above the individual $75,000/$150,000 thresholds
  • The IRS will reduce amount by $5 for each $100 above the thresholds

4. You’re not eligible if…

  • Individual income exceeds $99,000 with no children
  • Joint income exceeds $198,000 with no children

3.) How much Might I get?

  • Up to $1,200 for individuals
  • Up to $2,400 for married couples
  • Additional $500 for each qualifying child

According to the bill, the amount you will receive from the COVID-19 stimulus package is determined by your AGI and your tax filing status. The government will calculate the economic impact payment and automatically send to those who are eligible using either your 2018 or 2019 tax filing to calculate the payment.

4.) What if I need to update my direct deposit information?

According to the IRS, an online portal to provide your banking information will be available mid-April. This way you can securely send your information to the IRS online. If they don’t have this information, they’ll mail a check.

5.) What if I need to file a tax return?

The IRS urges taxpayers to file as soon as possible so you can receive your payment. Make sure to include your direct deposit information. The economic impact payment will be available throughout the rest of 2020.

6.) What if I don’t normally file a tax return?

Retirees who don’t normally file a tax return don’t need to do anything. The IRS will still automatically send your payment. This includes recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099. No action is required on your part to receive the check.

                            Economic Impact Payment Scams

1.) The IRS will not call to verify or provide financial information.

2.) The same goes for emails. Check irs.gov for the latest information.

3.) Seniors: no additional information is needed to receive your payment.

4.) Listen for scammers using “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment; The official term is “Economic Impact Payment”.

5.) Don’t sign your payment over to anyone!

6.) An individual can’t get your payment faster. Don’t pay someone to try.

7.) Watch out for fake checks with odd amounts mailed to you. They’ll ask for you to call and verify to get the cash.

 

References

FTC COVID-19 Complaints. (2020, 04), Retrieved from Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.ftc.gov/system/files/attachments/coronavirus-covid-19-consumer-complaint-data/covid-19-daily-public-complaints.pdf

 

How to Recognize and Avoid Phishing Scams. (n.d.), Retrieved From Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-recognize-and-avoid-phishing-scams

 

Coronavirus (COVID-19) Update: FDA Alerts Consumers About Unauthorized Fraudulent COVID-19 Test Kits. (2020, 04), Retrieved From Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.fda.gov/news-events/press-announcements/coronavirus-covid-19-update-fda-alerts-consumers-about-unauthorized-fraudulent-covid-19-test-kits

 

FTC, FDA warn companies making Coronavirus claims. (2020, 04),  Retrieved From Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/blogs/business-blog/2020/03/ftc-fda-warn-companies-making-coronavirus-claims

 

How To Donate Wisely And Avoid Charity Scams. (n.d.), Retrieved From Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/how-donate-wisely-and-avoid-charity-scams

 

Robocalls. (n.d.), Retrieved From Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0259-robocalls#legal

 

IRS issues warning about Coronavirus-related scams; watch out for schemes tied to economic impact payments. (n.d.), (2020, 04), Retrieved From Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-issues-warning-about-coronavirus-related-scams-watch-out-for-schemes-tied-to-economic-impact-payments

 

Want to get your Coronavirus relief check? Scammers do too. (2020, 04), Retrieved From Federal Trade Commission Consumer Information:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/04/want-get-your-coronavirus-relief-check-scammers-do-too

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