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Tips to Protect Yourself From COVID-19 Scammers

Look out for these warning signs that often accompany coronavirus scams.

During this time of uncertainty, fraudsters are taking advantage of global headlines in an attempt to get people to click malicious links, volunteer personal information, download malicious software or fall for other scams.

Read on to learn about – and avoid – scams that have sprung up in the wake of COVID-19 and economic relief bills.

Don’t fall for economic impact payment scams

The CARES Act and American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 included provisions for economic impact payments – relief checks to help individuals and families during this challenging time. A number of scams have emerged that attempt to trick individuals into providing personal information under the guise of registering for these payments.

If you receive calls, emails or other communications related to your payment, do not give out any personal information. If the sender claims to be a reputable entity like the IRS or Treasury Department, do an internet search and review information straight from their official website.

Common red flags to watch out for:

  • Use of the phrase “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment.” The official term is “economic impact payment.”
  • Any request to sign over your economic impact payment check to someone else.
  • Any request for verification of personal or banking information. The scammer may insist that the information is needed to receive or speed up your economic impact payment.
  • Any request for payment, including any types of fees, charges or gift card purchases.
  • Any offer to expedite a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on your behalf – either in person or virtually.
  • A “stimulus check” for an odd amount – especially one with cents.
  • A “stimulus check” that requires verification online or by phone.

Sidestep other types of email fraud

COVID-19-related email scams have become the largest collection of attacks. Scammers have posed as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the IRS, the FDIC and other government agencies to obtain information.

Common red flags to watch out for:

  • Any request for personal information, financial information or any kind of payment.
  • Links or attachments to “read safety tips” or “view new cases around your city.” Don’t click these.
  • Knock-off domain addresses, such as the use of “cdcgov.org” rather than the legitimate “cdc.gov.”
  • Misspelled words, unusual language or grammatical errors.
  • A sense of urgency or even the threat of legal action.
  • The use of an official logo or real employee names – while not a red flag on their own, fraudsters can easily add these to communications.

Boost your Zoom security

With an increase in Zoom use across the globe, concerns about the virtual meeting platform’s security have surfaced. While Zoom has addressed these vulnerabilities, you can add an extra layer of safety by taking the following steps:

  • If your business has a professional-level plan, consider applying for a custom Zoom URL.
  • If you use the mobile Zoom app, keep it updated.
  • Always use a unique meeting ID rather than your personal meeting ID, as your personal ID doesn’t change.
  • Avoid posting meeting IDs on social media or other public platforms.
  • Password-protect any confidential meetings.

Report the incident

If you’ve fallen victim to a coronavirus-related scam, contact law enforcement and let your financial advisor know. They can help walk you through the next steps to take.

For more tips and information about the latest scams, visit the Federal Communications Commission website.

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