With the Covid-19 pandemic ravaging all parts of the world without exception, many people have discovered a newfound solidarity with their fellow human beings. Unfortunately, not everybody has embraced this sentiment, particularly scammers who have taken advantage of the pandemic to defraud others for their own material gain. Reports of consumer fraud increased dramatically in 2020, according to a report by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). However, if you are aware of the different types of scams you can be more prepared to guard yourself and loved ones from falling victim to this type of fraudulent activity.
Covid-19 Testing Fraud
A common scam which the Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning consumers about is a text message scam which pretends to be from the US Department of Health and Human Services or some other government agency. The fraudsters claim to be sending a link to a mandatory Covid-19 test, despite the fact that Covid-19 tests cannot be taken online without a biological sample. Consumers should know that government agencies do not typically send text messages. You can always double-check with the agency’s website for verification of truthfulness of the text message received.
Fraudulent Covid-19 vaccine offers
Another scam going around are fake offers to obtain a Covid-19 vaccine for money or in exchange for personal information. You should know that the government is offering Covid-19 vaccines for free. This means you should not need to provide your bank account, Social Security number or credit card account number to obtain a vaccine.
Health insurance fraud
Unscrupulous individuals and groups are using the Covid-19 pandemic to attempt to defraud innocent people and trick them into giving the scammers their health insurance information. These scammers are offering bogus Covid-19 antibody tests and claiming costs are covered by insurance as an excuse to obtain insurance information and Social Security numbers. If you receive a call with one of these offers, hang up and contact your health insurance provider directly to confirm the legitimacy of the offer.
Fake Social Security officials
One type of scam which has been around for a while has taken on a new form in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic. Scammers impersonating Social Security officials have been targeting mostly the elderly for many years. But now many are claiming that Social Security benefits may be suspended as a result of the pandemic and are requesting payment to reinstate the benefits. Again, do not give your information over the phone and check with the Social Security Administration directly via the agency’s website or call the agency directly to verify the validity of the phone call.
Elderly common targets for Covid-19 scams
Just like many other types of scams, Covid-19 fraud schemes tend to target the most vulnerable which is oftentimes the elderly. If you are retired or close to retirement, you should be especially careful. It would be a shame if scammers are able to hurt your quality of life or even deplete your ability to retain generational wealth for your beneficiaries. Many times, smart estate planning, such as utilizing a living trust can help to avoid many of the dangers of scams aimed at the elderly.
Any opinions are those of the author and not necessarily those of Raymond James. Expressions of opinion are as of this date and are subject to change without notice.