Early scams connected to the COVID-19 crisis preyed on fears connected to the pandemic – fake emails from financial institutions seeking phantom payments or offering investment-protection services, for example, or scammers pretending to be hospital administrators or health insurance agents, collecting on nonexistent invoices.
Later, scammers got creative, moving on to miracle cures or other novel approaches to drive a wedge between people, primarily senior citizens, and their money.
Now, the FBI has warned of scammers moving away from taking advantage of the population’s security or health concerns and instead targeting its generosity.
A warning issued last month outlines concerns with fake charities “leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both.” The warning doesn’t cite specific cases, but these types of fraud have contributed to a reported $145 million in coronavirus-related scams since the pandemic began.
[MOAA’s 3-PART SERIES: Don’t Be Scammed]
So, how do you avoid criminals posing as charity workers? Here’s a quick five-point plan, courtesy of the FBI warning and other resources:
2. Know the names. Scammers frequently use sound-alikes or slight misspellings to make their pretend charity seem like the genuine article. Don’t speed-read these requests – it’s not likely a major charity has a typo in its email address, or sends correspondence through anything other than its own web domain (check for a “.com” or a “.org” at the end of the email address, as appropriate).
3. Be cyber-aware. The Federal Trade Commission offers detailed advice on avoiding “phishing” attacks – emails or text messages from scammers attempting to pirate your personal information. The bottom line: Only open emails (and especially attachments) from trusted senders, and pay special attention to any messages requesting immediate action or payment.
4. Know the payment process. If you’re asked to pay with anything other than a credit card (cash, wire transfer, etc.), you’re probably being taken. If the charity’s online donation collection site raises any red flags, do further research.
5. Double-check everything. Always look at your credit card or bank statement after a payment to ensure it went through at the amount submitted. Be wary of double (or more) charges.
You can keep up with the latest financial news, as well as find links to MOAA’s financial webinars and resources, at MOAA’s Finance page.