Worst COVID-19 Scams Targeting Seniors
And how to avoid being a victim
Everyone is an easy target if not equipped properly. During social chaos, scammers descend on the innocent, taking advantage of confusion and emotion. Posing as reputable outfits, companies and organizations, scammers purposefully target the aging population. Seniors are viewed as easy targets due to their stable financial situation, unwavering honesty and trustworthiness. With a global pandemic fully under way, seniors are fighting to avoid a potentially deadly virus. At the same time, they must fend off an onslaught of scams determined to swindle them of their money and safety. We’ve compiled a list of scams using the cover of COVID-19 to victimized seniors.
Here are the 5 worst COVID-19 scams aimed at seniors and how to avoid them:
5. Checks from the Government
With the recent signing of a two-trillion-dollar federal stimulus plan, predatory scams have already begun. These scams exploit the muddled messaging and politicized debate on who gets what, since many people are unaware of the factual details in the stimulus plan.
The Federal Trade Commission has released several key items to help you identify a scam.
- The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
- The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
- These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
How to Avoid: Do not give financial information to anyone saying they’re associated with the government, banking institutions, or other organizations in regards to the COVID-19 economic stimulus plan.
4. Vaccinations, Cures, & Medicine
Currently there is no cure, vaccination or remedy against COVID-19. Seniors are especially vulnerable and specifically targeted as prey for medically-related scams. The coronavirus is known to affect adults above the age of 66 with much more debilitating and deadly consequences. Scammers are benefiting from the fear that seniors have of contracting the virus. With no effective over-the-counter medication or home remedies available, seniors are looking for any advantage to fight off the virus. Be wary of anyone using terminology such as just announced, FDA approved, pre-market, as these are trigger words used to swindle unsuspecting victims.
Read more from the FTC about how to identify COVID-19 related scams.
3. Donations to Charities
Local humanitarian projects are always in need of volunteer efforts and financial donations, and even more so now. Herein lies the problem. Corrupt outfits will appear to facilitate honest efforts, such as raising money for those in need or distributing medical supplies. It’s difficult to refrain as the scam involves using your local community as a backdrop to their scheme. Submitting to their trick will only serve to line their undeserving pockets with your goodwill. The best policy is to reach out to an organization that you’ve previously had contact with or one wher someone you personally know and trust is involved with the organization.
Verified Nonprofits Responding to the COVID-19 Pandemic:
- Charity Navigator A guide a intelligent giving
- Charity Watch Lists verified nonprofit organizations
- Charity Checker IRS-recognized charities and nonprofits
- IRS Tax exempt organization search
How to Avoid: Check if the organization in question is listed with the Better Business Bureau, GIVE.org or CharityWatch.org. If it is not, do not send money or personal information.
2. Investment Opportunities
As off-putting as this may sound, there are remarkable investment opportunities during times of conflict and despair. Scammers know this. They also understand how to use hope and fear against their victims. Hope that their snake oil will prevent financial casualties and the fear that without action, gains will be lost.
Tactics range from persuading victims to buy into fictitious medical technologies to selling junk stock that’s supposedly immune to market fluctuations. Imagine investing in the company that discovers a cure or vaccine to eradicate the coronavirus. Such an important find will surely launch the value of such a stock to astronomical heights.
Expert Advice on Investment Scams:
- FINRA Protecting your portfolio
- SEC Look out for Coronavirus0Related Investment Scams
- The Motley Fool IRS-recognized charities and nonprofits
1. Online – Phishing scams & Fake Email
Phishing scams are used to gain personal information such as Social Security numbers and banking information. Once obtained, this information is used in a variety of ways, including but not limited to applying for new credit cards, draining banking accounts, and making online purchases. In a matter of a few hours, immense damage can be done to your personal identity and bank accounts.
Scammers are utilizing the global pandemic to enhance their efforts online by copying the identity of trusted organizations or simply creating new ones that appear legitimate. By purchasing COVID-19 related domain names, scammers reach instant credibility. One of the first items people notice about an email is the sender. Does it originate from a reliable source? If it can pass the eye test, the scammer has already opened the door. That’s why so many outbreak related domain names are being purchased.
Many people do not realize that purchasing a domain name takes less than 15 minutes, in some cases 5 minutes. There are few restrictions or preventative measures to deter scammers from picking up clever COVID-19 related domain names and using them for unscrupulous activities.
Domain registrars such as Namecheap, GoDaddy and Tucows are vetting COVID-19 related domain names and canceling services for domain owners conducting fraudulent activities. Article
Authorities Address Phishing Scams:
How to Avoid: Make sure the email is real, and from the business or organization it claims to be from. Hover your cursor over the link without clicking. If the email link looks suspicious, it is.