Scammers thrive in crises. The Federal Trade Commission is reporting a surge in fraud complaints. Bad actors are leveraging fear and shortages to bilk consumers out of millions and to harvest information for identity fraud.
Help your loved one avoid scammers by following these tips.
Research requests for donations. Verify the nonprofit on Guidestar.org, the registry that provides financial reporting on all registered 501c3 organizations. Be especially wary if the request is “urgent” and for payment by gift card or prepaid debit card.
Ignore social media ads, texts, or emails selling
- cures or vaccines. Relief is months, maybe a year or more away. Look for an announcement from the Centers for Disease Control and get a prescription from the doctor.
- hard-to-find supplies. From gloves to toilet paper, surgical masks to hand sanitizers. Amazon and Facebook are working hard to block gougers and bogus sellers. Pay attention to the star ratings of sellers and look for complaints of supplies never being received.
- stock deals. Many fraudsters offer great investment deals on stock that is “going to take off” with the latest cure, test, or vaccine. Unfortunately, they have bought the stock already. When demand drives the price up, they sell. The price then plummets and investors get stuck with the loss.
Hang up on robocalls asking for money or information. The federal government never uses this method of communication. Neither do other credible organizations. It’s the medium of scammers.
Do not click on emailed links or download files from organizations you do not know. Many fraudsters are looking to insert malware on your computer to harvest information for identity theft. Even if the email seems genuine and the website looks like a government or reputable organization, do a Google search to find the real domain name. (Cybercriminals set up a mirror site at redcross.net, for instance. The actual address for the Red Cross is redcross.org).