Cindy Solomon

Recently, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) have issued reports that older adults are being targeted by scammers using the COVID-19 health situation.

It is important for us to be cautious during this time because scams are coming through all forms of communication. Several different types of scams have been reported. Some are using the economic impact payments, others are trying to sell COVID-19 tests and miracle cures. Scammers will continually change their tactics to catch us off guard.

It is vital to remember that the IRS will NOT contact you regarding the economic impact payments. You DO NOT have to do anything in order to receive this payment.  The IRS will automatically send these $1,200 payments to older adults who qualify.

The most common scams surrounding coronavirus are:
Medicare Test Kits: Medicare will NOT call asking if you want test kits. This is an attempt to get your money and/or private information.
Fake Cures: Currently, there is no cure or vaccine to treat coronavirus. Any claims that suggest otherwise are 100% false.
Impersonations:

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not go door-to-door gathering information about infectious diseases. If you encounter a person claiming to be from the CDC, contact your local police department.
The U.S. Census Bureau is suspending in-person census takers until at least April 15th. This means that no legitimate census taker will be going door-to-door.

Economic Impact Payments: There are reports that people have been receiving phone calls, texts, emails and social media posts about the economic impact payment to citizens during the COVID-19 situation. These are scams trying to get your private information and/or get you to pay a small fee in order to receive it. If you receive a check in the mail, DO NOT DEPOSIT IT. It is a fake. It will take weeks for people to receive a paper check and most will have their funds directly deposited into their banks. The IRS warns taxpayers that scammers might use the following tactics:

Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted through social media or even in person.
Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Phishing emails: Recently, the Secret Service issued a warning about emails that appear to be sent from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). The email contains a link that does NOT connect to the CDC or WHO. It is best to avoid opening emails from senders you do not know.
Counterfeit products/price gouging:  Many consumers have reported false product descriptions and increased prices while shopping online. It is best to read reviews and look into the seller’s history before clicking “buy now”.
Phony fundraisers: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests researching charities before donating. You can verify nonprofits at GivingMatters.com.

Here are some tips to keep your money and identity safe:

Scammers rely on fear and fear-based decisions in order to steal your information and money. Don’t be afraid to hang up and call someone for advice.
If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Research and verify companies and organizations through the Better Business Bureau.
Knowing about the scams reduces the likelihood of becoming a victim.
Never share your bank account, routing or social security numbers.

Sources: irs.gov and bbb.org