As COVID-19 mutates and makes the virus more elusive, so do the scams that target the elderly population. During the current social chaos, scammers have taken advantage of society’s vulnerability and developed new scams that prey on the fears of the virus. Seniors are fighting to avoid a potentially deadly pandemic, and at the same time, must fend off an onslaught of scams that attempt to swindle them of their money and safety.
Older adults are an easy target if not equipped properly. Senior citizens are generally viewed as financially stable and unwavering in honesty and trustworthiness. Those seniors who are isolated due to social distancing and facing cognitive decline are at an even higher risk.
Having knowledge of the type of scams circulating is crucial in preventing them. We have compiled the worst COVID-19 related scams targeting seniors. Do you know how to protect yourself and your older loved ones against these common scams?
The Worst Coronavirus-Specific Scams You Need to Know:
- Home Test Kits for COVID-19
Scammers are calling or sending text messages to older adults offering “coronavirus test kits.” They pose as officials from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) to collect credit card or banking information and ask seniors for verification of their Medicare ID or Social Security number. These scammers ask the victim for their home address to supposedly drop off the test kit.
- Offers of Very Expensive COVID-19-Related Products and Services
Text and phone scams are falsely advertising products, such as phony drugs, vaccines, air filter systems, and other devices, that claim to prevent, mitigate, or even cure COVID-19. Some of these scams encourage older adults to “stock up” and purchase items at extremely high prices. Other scams are offering in-home services such as mosquito extermination and HVAC cleaning, that claim to protect people from contracting COVID-19. Fake gift-card emails are also being sent offering “assistance” during the crisis or “rewards” for following public health guidelines.
- Stimulus Money Scams
These scams are offering stimulus payments and loans as part of the federal government’s response to COVID-19. Scammers are asking consumers to provide bank account information to “release” funds or approve loan applications.
- Charity Scams
The thief in a charity scam poses as a real charity or even makes one up to steal money from the victim. Be careful if you receive a call from any charity asking for donations. If you do wish to donate to a charity, visit the website of your desired organization first. Something to look for is the Tax ID of the charity. Doing your research will ensure your money is going to the right place. And be wary if you get a call following up on a donation pledge that you do not remember making. If something seems off, it probably is.
- “Person in need” Scams
Scammers act as if they are a relative or friend who is supposedly ill, in trouble or stranded in another state or country. They ask for gift cards or money in cash by mail. These scammers often beg the victim to keep everything a secret and act extremely fast to prevent any questions or inquiries. If you get one of these calls, hang up and call that alleged friend or relative to fact check the caller’s story.
- Social Security Benefits Scams
Scammers are taking advantage that Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public and are misleading people into believing they need to provide personal information or pay money to maintain regular benefit payments. Any communication received whether it is via letter, text, email, or phone call saying that SSA will suspend or decrease benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam.
You can help an elderly loved one by informing them of the existence of these scams. It is imperative that older adults understand that government agencies will never contact them by phone, text or email asking for any type of personal or payment information.
The Best Defense Against These Scams is to:
- SAY NO and hang up if anyone contacts you and asks for your Social Security number, bank account number, credit card information, Medicare ID number, or driver’s license number.
- SAY NO if anyone contacts you asking for any other personal information by phone, in person, text message, or email.
- Refrain from answering text messages or calls that come from unknown or suspicious numbers.
- SAY NO if someone you do not know contacts you and requests money, especially through mobile applications. These applications transfer funds immediately and can be hard to trace.
- SAY NO if someone you do not know sends you, for example a check, possibly for prize-winnings and asks you to send some money back.
- Avoid clicking suspicious links sent via email or text message, even if they appear to come from a family or friend. This usually means that family member or friend’s phone was hacked and is sending out scams without their knowledge.
- SAY NO if something just does not feel right to you or is too good to be true. Do your research online or by making some phone calls. If all else fails, just go with your gut, that little voice inside that we used to rely on before the internet.
- Click on the following link to learn more about the Federal Trade Commission’s efforts to keep consumers informed about these scams: https://www.ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams-consumer-advice.
- If you suspect COVID-19 fraud, contact the United States Department of Justice, National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (866) 720-5721 or www.Justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm.
Remember, everyone is an easy target if not educated. Our law firm is here to assist the elderly population with any legal questions that may arise during these trying times. Contact OC Estate and Elder Law at (954) 251-0332 or firstname.lastname@example.org for a free phone consultation. Our attorneys are fluent in English, Spanish, and Russian.