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COVID-19 Fraud Prevention

Unfortunately, fraudsters are finding ways to take advantage of fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic. To help you learn more about protecting yourself against COVID-19 related scams, below are some resources with tips and info to help you avoid common COVID-19 scams.

If you think you may have fallen victim to one of these scams, be sure to contact our Customer Contact Center as soon as possible.

 

How to avoid Social Security Administration (SSA) scams during COVID-19 (Federal Trade Commission)

  • Do not trust caller ID. Scam calls may show up on caller ID as the Social Security Administration and look like the agency’s real number, but it’s not the SSA calling.
  • SSA will never call to threaten your benefits or tell you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.
  • Talk about it. If you’re getting these calls, chances are your friends and family are too. Please talk with them about it.
  • Your Social Security number is not about to be suspended. And your bank accounts are not about to be seized.
  • Don’t verify your Social Security number or any other personal information to anyone who calls out of the blue. If you already did, visit IdentityTheft.gov/SSA to find out what steps you can take to protect your credit and your identity.
  • People who know about scams are much less likely to fall for them. So by discussing them you are helping protect people you care for and people in your community.

To learn more visit, Avoiding SSA scams during COVID-19 (Federal Trade Commission)

Common COVID-19 Scams (American Banker Association)

  • Phishing and supply scams. Scammers impersonate health organizations and businesses to gather personal and financial information or sell fake test kits, supplies, vaccines or cures for COVID-19.
  • Bank/FDIC scams: Scammers impersonate FDIC or bank employees and falsely claim that banks are limiting access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits.
  • Stimulus check or economic relief scams. There are reports that the government will help to ease the economic impact of the virus by sending money by check or direct deposit. However, the government will NOT ask for a fee to receive the funds, nor will they ask for your personal or account information.
  • Provider scams. Scammers impersonate doctors and hospital staff and contact victim claiming to have treated a relative or friend for COVID-19 and demand payment for treatment.
  • Charity scams. Fraudsters seek donations for illegitimate or non-existent organizations.
  • Investment scams often styled as “research reports,” claiming that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19.
  • Delivery of malware through “virus-tracking apps” or sensationalized news reports.

To learn more visit, Tips to Avoid Coronavirus Scams and Protect Your Money (American Banker Association)

The American Bankers Association has also compiled a list of tips to help avoid becoming a victim of these scams:  

 10 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim (American Banker Association) 

  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails, texts, phone calls and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with, and NEVER give your password, account number or PIN to anyone.
  • Remember that the safest place for your money is in the bank—it’s physically secure and it’s federally insured. When you deposit your money at a bank, you get the comfort of knowing that your funds are secure and insured by the government. You don’t have the same level of protection when your money is outside the banking system.
  • Before you make any investments, remember that there is a high potential for fraud right now. You should be wary of any company claiming the ability to prevent, detect or cure coronavirus. For information on how to avoid investment fraud, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.
  • Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download malware onto devices or route users to bogus websites. Hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL that you are being routed to. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL. For example: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com.
  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Help others by reporting coronavirus scams. Visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov to report suspected or confirmed scams. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest scams by visiting the FTC’s coronavirus page at ftc.gov/coronavirus.
  • Do some research before making a donation. Be wary of any business, charity or individual requesting COVID-19-related payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card through the mail.
  • Change your security settings to enable multi-factor authentication for accounts that support it. Multi-factor authentication—or MFA—is a second step to verify who you are, like a text with a code.
  • Rely on official sources for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and your state’s health department websites to keep track of the latest development
  • Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure or treatment. If there is a medical breakthrough, it wouldn’t be reported through unsolicited emails or online ads.

Watch Out for Schemes Tied to Economic Impact Payments (IRS)

The IRS reminds taxpayers that scammers may:

  • Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
  • Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer's behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
  • Emphasize the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment." The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
  • Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.

To learn more visit, Watch out for schemes tied to economic impact payments (IRS) 

Other Common Fraudulent Scams to Be Aware Of

  • Family Emergency Scam – A scammer may pose as a relative or friend by means of calling or sending electronic messages to urge you to send money immediately, often for help with an emergency. The FTC has some helpful information on this scam here.
  • Unemployment Payment Scams - A scammer may file an unemployment claim using an identity theft victim’s information regardless of their employment status. The Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance has some helpful information and forms for reporting this scam here.
  • Small Business Loans & Grants – The Small Business Administration (SBA) warns business owners to be mindful of people who could be utilizing the pandemic to commit fraud. The SBA will not contact businesses directly to solicit loans or charge fees up front. Please visit SBA Programs - Scams and Fraud Alerts for more information.
  • Quarantine Scams – Those that are more susceptible to the virus may be relying on others to help with everyday errands. There have been instances where unreliable services will take orders and payment for those people that are unable to leave home but will never return with the items requested. The FTC recommends when at all possible, only rely on a trusted friend, family member or neighbor and only order directly from the store.

 

 

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