Beware of emergency-related scams out there – yes, they are popping up everywhere! Never click on links in emails or texts unless you know the person or institution. If you are unsure about a phone call or text – look up the organization’s main number online and tell them you will call them back. Beware of organizations reaching out to you on social media platforms too like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram – and again beware of links. Look them up online, google “[Company Name] and “fraud” or “scam”. If it’s too good to be true, be very, very wary. Never pay someone to help you get Federal funds, or IRS checks, or mortgage help – especially don’t go buy a bunch of gift cards – and don’t share your social security number, account numbers, or things like your mother’s date of birth until you log-on directly to the organization’s website like your bank or call them directly at their main 1-800 customer service line. Unfortunately, there are terrible people in the world – it is less than 1% of us – but with technology now, that small percentage can do a lot of damage. Be very skeptical – make Pyrrho proud (the father of skepticism). You can call MaineStream to help you figure out if something is real or not. We also have a scams section on our Personal Finances during COVID-19 page.
US.gov reports that the three most common COVID-19 scams are:
1) Testing and treatment scams (answer: go to your doctor, health insurer, or nearest urgent care center instead)
2) FDIC and banking scams (answer: get your bank’s phone number directly and call them directly – do not reply to them via email or click on an email link or chat with them on Facebook)
3) Checks from the government (answer: never share your personal information like social security until you call them back directly – call the government organization who is supposedly issuing the checks directly – call the State of Maine Attorney General’s office, call US FTC, or call us at MaineStream. You will never pay a fee to get government benefits.)
Here are resources and places you can call for help or learn more on scams:
- US.gov Common Scams – Corona Virus Scams and Price Gouging
- US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Coronavirus Scams
- US Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) Resources
- Better Business Bureau (BBB) Serving Eastern MA, ME, RI & VT Resources
- Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection (BCCP)
- Maine Attorney General – Office of Consumer Complaints (though there is a backlog)
Originally published April 20, 2020
To find out more about Personal Finance issues during COVID-19, go here.