Before we dive into COVID-19 scams, here is an update for program participants. In light of the continued COVID-19 pandemic, we are again offering you the option to defer your May payments. Contact Anna, our program coordinator, by May 11, 2020, to defer your May payment, if needed and if you have not already done so. You can reach Anna by emailing [email protected], by calling 612-615-0067 ext 1, or by texting 612-500-5120. If we don’t hear from you by May 11, we will process your payment as usual.
It turns out the disastrous whirlwind of job loss, financial strain, and emotionally-taxing social distancing has created the perfect storm for one group of people: scammers. Because of the COVID-19 crisis, more and more people are susceptible to fraudulent online schemes, social media hoaxes, or rip-off robocalls.
If you see a scam, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at ftc.gov/complaint.
Here are general healthy habits to practice when online or on the phone:
Scammers are taking advantage of growing health fears by offering “free” COVID-19 home test kits or fake remedies. These products are a hoax: officials have not yet approved any vaccines or drugs to treat or prevent COVID-19. The best ways to prevent illness is to wash your hands often, avoid touching your face, stay home whenever possible, and wear a cloth mask when outside. Visit cdc.gov/coronavirus for more details.
Everyone needs money right now: fraudsters know this. That’s why they are sending fake stimulus checks, including any “overpayments” the scammers then ask people to correct by returning money via money transfer, cash, or gift cards. Although direct deposits are underway, the FTC does not expect people to receive official print checks until May. Check your payment status at irs.gov/coronavirus/get-my-payment or irs.gov/coronavirus.
As unemployment reaches historic highs, criminals are capitalizing by listing fake work-from-home jobs that require payment for “training.” If someone you don’t know wants you to pay them in exchange for a “job,” it’s a scam – and possibly a crime. Should you send or move money in this way, you may be illegally acting as a money mule. Do your research by contacting someone at the company to confirm the position is legitimate.
Some retailers are selling essential goods or services at excessively inflated prices during the pandemic. Scammers are stockpiling these items and reselling at extremely high rates, selling defective products, or accepting money for supplies or services that do not have or offer. Report price-gouging immediately to the Minnesota Attorney General.
Fraudsters are taking advantage of the confusing news reports by impersonating government agencies, offering “relief” in exchange for a fee and other personal information. Government agencies will never call or message you asking for your personal information or money. You can report scams at usa.gov/stop-scams-frauds.
Stay safe, everyone!
Money Management E-Newsletter: April 2020