Take a moment and think about what you’ve been through over the last few weeks. Chances are, you have made your contribution to the health and safety of your community by isolating yourself and your family. You have learned new ways to move through each day, and for some this has drastically altered your professional and economic situation. Through all of this, it’s been helpful to remember that we are all in this together.
And then there are those that seek to take advantage. Cybercriminals and identity thieves may be sheltering in place, but they are still working to steal from the most vulnerable. In fact, as our state and federal governments work to repair the economic damage, these crafty individuals were able to leverage all of this uncertainty. Now is the time to understand where these scams appear and how you can be prepared to fight back.
Front-Door Scams – With almost everyone at home, scammers have taken up some old-school tactics, including going door-to-door. Add in the fact that many neighborhoods were expecting a flood of government employees working on the 2020 Census and you have a recipe for fraud. It’s important to note, the US Census Bureau has postponed much of this activity. But criminals are also impersonating health care organizations, such as the CDC and World Health Organization, as well as charitable organizations. If anyone comes to your door claiming to be a government employee, a representative of your local health care organization or other “official” or not, always ask for a valid ID badge. This advice extends beyond government employees to anyone showing up at your door asking for personal information or seeking cash donations. Check it out by looking up the publicly published phone number of the company or agency before you act.
Mailbox Scams – Within days of the federal government announcing that they were developing a stimulus package for individuals and businesses, letters pretending to be “official communications” began showing up in mailboxes. How could the federal government work so quickly to disperse these funds? They didn’t. Sadly, scammers began sending phony “checks” to convince consumers to open postal mail where there were promises of speeding money from the government or offers to buy other products. The FTC issued a warning about these scams within days of their arrival in mailboxes. Be mindful of the communications you receive in the mail, especially if it is asking you to give up personal information or take other steps. For most Americans stimulus checks will be direct-deposited to your account directly from the United States Treasury or a check will be mailed to you and you will not need an intermediary to help you access your funds.
Online and Email Scams – Every day, Google blocks more than 100 million COVID-related phishing emails, and that is just a fraction of the phishing emails that make it through, making your email inbox a target. Phishing is the practice of impersonating a trusted organization and sending out emails hoping someone will “take the bait” and open an attachment or respond with personal information. Facebook phishing is also on the rise as more people turn to Facebook and other social media platforms to keep in touch with friends and family. With all the activity related to COVID-19 and the Stimulus, consumers can be easily confused by official-looking communications. Never give away your personal information via e-mail or in social media. A legitimate organization will never ask you for this information through these channels.
Phone Scams – Dialing for dollars is back in fashion. Scammers have started calling with phony information on how to get your stimulus money. As the IRS points out; the government will not call you with this type of request. While much of this information might be obvious to you, it’s important to follow up with members of your family who might not be as informed or capable. Your Fort Financial account offers protection for up to three generations (3G Coverage) of your family. If they are compromised, we can help restore them to their pre-breach status.
In a time of great uncertainty, we must remain vigilant in the face of ever-present threats. Having a partner who can help you get your life back in the event of identity theft can help ease some of the uncertainty. Take a moment to review your financial transactions and keep watch for scams that would compromise your identity. As always, if you suspect that your identity has been compromised, we are here to help.