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Monday October 19, 2020

Savvy Living

Savvy Senior

Tips to Protect Against Coronavirus Scams

Amid all the troubling coronavirus news, I have also read that there are various coronavirus scams going around right now taking advantage of innocent people who are afraid of getting sick or are worried about those that have. What can you tell me about coronavirus scams and what can I do to protect myself?

Unfortunately, coronavirus scams are spreading nearly as fast as the virus itself, and seniors are often the most vulnerable. Con artists are setting up websites to sell bogus products. Scammers are also using spoofed caller IDs, email addresses, text messages and social media accounts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.

The emails and posts from these accounts may claim to promote awareness, provide prevention tips, but will also disseminate fake information about cases in your community. The emails and posts may ask you to donate to fictitious victims, offer advice on unproven treatments and may contain malicious email attachments.

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

Click carefully: Do not click on coronavirus-related links from sources you do not know in emails, text messages or unfamiliar websites. When you click on an email or download a file, you may instead get a program on your computer that spreads malware and digs into your personal files looking for passwords and other personal information.

Ignore bogus product offers: Online offers for coronavirus vaccinations or miracle cures are rampant on the internet. Do not fall prey to those advertisements. At publishing time, there are currently no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus. If you see or receive ads touting prevention, treatment or remedies that claim to cure the coronavirus, remember they are not legitimate.

Beware of CDC spoofing: Be wary of emails, text messages or phone calls claiming to come from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or the World Health Organization (WHO). These scams can take several forms – such as fake health agency warnings about infections in your local area, vaccine and treatment offers, medical test results, health insurance cancellation, alerts about critical supply shortages and more.

For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus, visit CDC.gov/coronavirus.

Beware of fundraising scams: Be wary of emails or phone calls asking you to donate to a charity or crowdfunding campaign for coronavirus victims or for disease research. To verify a charity's legitimacy use apps.irs.gov/app/eos/. If you are asked for donations by prepaid gift card or by wiring money, it is probably a scam.

Beware of stock scams: The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about phone calls and online promotions, including social media promotions, that tout stocks of companies with products that supposedly can prevent, detect or cure coronavirus. The promotions typically urge you to buy these stocks now, because the stocks will soar in price.

In this scheme, the con artists have already bought the stocks, which typically sell for a dollar or less. As the hype grows and the stock price increases from additional purchases, the con men dump the stock, saddling other investors with big losses created by the mass sale of stock. Making matters worse, you may not be able to sell your shares if trading is suspended.

When investing in any company, including companies that claim to focus on coronavirus-related products and services, carefully research the investment. Remember, investment scam artists often exploit the latest crisis to line their own pockets.

For more tips on how to avoid getting swindled, see the Federal Communications Commission COVID-19 consumer warning and safety tips at FCC.gov/covid-scams.

Savvy Living is written by Jim Miller, a regular contributor to the NBC Today Show and author of "The Savvy Living" book. Any links in this article are offered as a service and there is no endorsement of any product. These articles are offered as a helpful and informative service to our friends and may not always reflect this organization's official position on some topics. Jim invites you to send your senior questions to: Savvy Living, P.O. Box 5443, Norman, OK 73070.

Published April 17, 2020
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