Be Vigilant: Phone, Online Scams May Rise With COVID-19 Relief Legislation

Be Vigilant: Phone, Online Scams May Rise With COVID-19 Relief Legislation
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Even before the latest round of COVID-19 relief legislation cleared Congress, multiple agencies and news outlets warned of continued pandemic-related scams designed to nab personal information or cash from their targets.

 

With the publicity surrounding the new law – and some of the individual benefits it includes – it’s likely scammers could increase their efforts. Similar warnings were sounded after previous relief legislation.

 

These scams may take many forms. Some of the latest warnings have included:

 

Vaccine rollout fraud. Scammers have taken multiple routes in this area, according to the Better Business Bureau, with some promising home vaccinations or COVID-19 testing in exchange for Medicare account information, others offering to sell shots, and others engineering phony surveys about the vaccine, offering a prize at the end for those who give up personal information.

 

Ripped from the headlines. Many small businesses aren’t sure whether they qualify for the Paycheck Protection Program, and many individuals don’t know whether they’ll see additional stimulus checks or unemployment benefits connected to new legislation. Scammers are happy to call and provide “free advice” on these and other topics in the news, often in exchange for Social Security numbers or other information.

 

Stick with the classics. As the pandemic stretches into spring, it overlaps with tax season – a traditionally fertile ground for fraud of all types. Some scammers have been combining the stress-inducing topics for maximum effect.

 

[RELATED: More Financial Resources From MOAA]

 

While the scams may change, the bulk of the protective actions you can take remain the same. MOAA has outlined several of these steps in previous articles and webinars (Premium/Life member login required); click those links for full details, but here’s a quick refresher:

  • Not sure whether a call purporting to be from a federal agency or other organization is legitimate? Hang up, look up the number of the agency, and call back.
  • Protect personal information by changing passwords regularly, shredding important documents, and watching what you share on social media.
  • Be safe online by not opening suspicious links or attachments, and check for an “https” in front of the URL before making any financial transactions.
  • Stay up to date with your local vaccine rollout information, and learn more about DoD and VA offerings; get details at MOAA.org/Coronavirus.

 

And one new item for the list: Multiple federal agencies, including the Federal Trade Commission, have warned against celebrating your COVID-19 vaccine by posting photos of your vaccine card online. Cards with your date of birth, health care provider details, and other personal information offer opportunities to online identity thieves.

 

Get more details about COVID-related fraud, including how to report suspected cases, at this Department of Justice website.

 

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About the Author

Kevin Lilley
Kevin Lilley

Lilley serves as MOAA's digital content manager. His duties include producing, editing, and managing content for a variety of platforms, with a concentration on The MOAA Newsletter and MOAA.org. Follow him on Twitter: @KRLilley