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COVID-19 Scams: How to Spot and Avoid Them

With International Fraud Awareness Week approaching, now is a great time to refresh your fraud knowledge and learn about the latest tricks and cons, including COVID-19 related scams. Scammers are always trying to separate people from their hard-earned money and personal or financial information. But in times of crisis, like the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are working even harder to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. According to the FTC, Americans have lost more than $130 million in COVID-19 scams. Scammers are following the headlines and coming up with new COVID-19-related schemes, but their basic tactics are nothing new. If you know the common signs of a scam, you can help keep your money and information out of the wrong hands. Let's take a look at some of the latest COVID-19 scams and what you can do to avoid them. Phony Contact Tracers Contact tracers work for state health departments to contact and track anyone who may have been exposed to COVID-19. Talking to a real contact tracer can help slow the spread of the virus. Unfortunately, scammers are posing as contact tracers to steal people's money and personal or financial information. How to spot the scam:Legitimate contact tracers may reach you by phone call, email or text message to collect information from you. They will likely ask for your name and address, health information and the names of places and people you've visited recently. Contact tracers need to know your health information, not your financial information. On the other hand, scammers may ask for your Social Security number, account numbers or credit card information, claiming they need to “verify your identity." Don't fall for it! There's no reason for a real contact tracer to ask for this information. If you're unsure if a contact tracer is legitimate, check with your state health department directly. Miracle “Cures" or TreatmentsScammers are selling phony products claiming to treat, prevent or “cure" COVID-19 without proof that they work. You may see social media advertisements, emails or receive phone calls or text messages about so-called miracle products. These fraudulent products haven't been evaluated by the FDA and may be dangerous to your health. ​How to spot the scam:Be suspicious of any product that claims to offer a “quick fix" or “miracle cure." Remember that personal testimonials aren't the same as scientific evidence. Talk with your healthcare provider and seek accurate information on COVID-19 at CDC.gov.Bogus CharitiesIn challenging times, you can count on communities to come together and support charitable causes. Unfortunately, you can also count on scammers to take advantage of kind-hearted donors with charity scams. Be suspicious of unexpected phone calls, emails or text messages requesting urgent donations. It could be a scammer posing as a charitable organization. ​How to spot the scam:Never let anyone pressure you to act right away and make a donation. That's something scammers do! A legitimate charity will be happy to receive a donation at any time, so there's no reason to rush. Before donating, research the charity and read reviews online. Find out how much of your donation goes to the cause you want to support. If you want to donate, it's safest to pay by credit card or check. If someone asks you to “donate" by giving them gift card numbers or by wiring money, it's a sure sign of a scam.Money Mule ScamsDue to COVID-19, many people are looking for ways to make money from home. Criminals are targeting these vulnerable individuals for money mule scams, promising them high pay for little to no work. If you accept the job, the scammer will send you money and ask you to transfer the funds to someone else through your personal checking account. You may receive a “commission" for your service, but in reality, you're transferring stolen funds. Acting as a money mule is illegal and you could get into serious trouble. How to spot the scam:Be cautious of job listings that involve transferring money online. A legitimate employer will not ask you to transfer money through your personal account. If the position promises that you'll “get rich quick" for little effort, it's probably a scam. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is!Wright-Patt Credit Union is here to help you protect yourself against fraud during this time of COVID-19. Be sure to check out our COVID-19 Fraud page for the latest updates and information on avoiding coronavirus-related fraud. ​For more everyday fraud prevention tips, tools and resources, visit WPCU.coop/StopFraud.