Times of crisis can bring out the best in people. Communities step up to take care of one another’s needs, resources are pooled, and good things get done. Unfortunately, times of crisis can also bring out the worst in some people. Criminals and unscrupulous people use situations like the current Coronavirus crisis to take advantage of their victims.
Know what scams are out there
There are a number of common scams circulating in the community. Help avoid becoming a victim to scams and protect those most vulnerable to this type of deception.
- Stimulus check or economic relief scams. The US government just passed a $2 trillion Coronavirus relief package to ease the economic impact of the virus. Many Americans will receive a stimulus payment either by check or through a direct deposit to their bank account. Important: The government will NOT ask for a fee to receive the funds, nor will they ask for your personal or account information. If you receive an email or a phone call requesting your personal information, consider such requests a SCAM.
- Bank/FDIC scams: Scammers impersonate FDIC or bank employees and falsely claim that banks are limiting access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits.
- Charity scams. Criminals know that people are more generous during times of great need. Beware of donation requests for fraudulent charities and organizations.
- Phishing and supply scams. Scammers impersonate health organizations and businesses by email or phone to gather personal and financial information, or worse, to sell fake test kits, supplies, vaccines or cures for COVID-19.
- Malware: Clicking on that sensational news article or shocking social media link is an effective way to deliver malware through “virus-tracking apps.” Be smart about unknown links.
- Medical Provider scams. Scammers impersonate doctors or hospital staff and contact victims demanding payment for the treatment of a relative or friend for COVID-19.
Avoid becoming a Victim
Always keep your personal and financial information secure. Never give your password, account number or PIN to anyone. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails, texts, phone calls and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources with which you are not familiar. Once out of your control, your information can be used to drain accounts and open fraudulent lines of credit.
Banks will always be the safest place for your money. When you deposit your money at a bank, your funds are both physically secure and insured by the government.
Do your research. By all means, continue to be generous during times of crisis. However, do your research before you make a donation. Businesses, charities or individuals requesting COVID-19 related payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card or through the mail should raise a red flag.
Recognize and avoid fake website links. Hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL to which you are being routed. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL or misspelling the familiar link. Malicious links can download malware onto devices or route users to fake websites.
Improve your security. Enable multi-factor authentication for accounts that support this security feature. Multi-factor authentication—or MFA—is a second step to verify who you are, through means of a text with a code. A criminal might guess your password, but without the second authentication code, will be locked out of your account.
Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the most current software fixes as they become available. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats.
Rely on trusted sources of information. Use the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and your state’s health department websites to track all of the latest developments. If there is a change in circumstances or a medical breakthrough, trust the official channels rather than unsolicited emails and pop-up ads.
Protect yourself and others
During this time of crisis, it important to protect not only our health and safety, but also our privacy and security. Scammers are using the Coronavirus pandemic and relief packages passed by Congress to take advantage of people. It is important to remember that the government will never charge a fee to receive your benefits, nor will they ask for personal information, like account numbers or passwords.
Bank Independent will also never reach out to you to ask for personal details, including account numbers or passwords. If you are ever concerned that you are being scammed, we encourage you to reach out to our Customer Service team at 877-865-5050 or reach out to your local sales office.
You can help protect others by reporting Coronavirus scams. Visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov to report suspected or confirmed scams. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest scams by visiting the FTC’s coronavirus page at ftc.gov/coronavirus.