Scammers are currently taking advantage of the confusion and fear of the COVID-19 situation to get access to your accounts. Several scams that use the coronavirus pandemic to get information are becoming more common. Some even use information about you, such as who you bank with or your full legal name, to convince you they are legitimate. Here are a few cons to watch out for right now.
Stimulus Plan Scams
As the government's stimulus plan has launched and people are beginning to receive financial aid, scams are launching too, targeting both those who have already received a check and those waiting to receive theirs.
If you have filed your taxes with the IRS in 2018 or 2019 and selected to receive a refund through direct deposit, Direct Express, debit card or paper check, that is how you will receive your stimulus funds. If you haven't done so, you'll need to visit the IRS' website to claim your funds and indicate how you'd like to receive it.
Don't give out any information if somebody contacts you claiming to be from the IRS, whether it is through phone, email, or text. They also won't contact you concerning the status of your stimulus through those methods, it will simply arrive when it arrives. You also don't have to pay any money to receive the stimulus offer and they won't pay you more than you should receive and ask you to pay back the money overpaid.
Fake Financial Aid Offers
Quarantine and self-isolation orders have negatively impacted a lot of people’s income. Many have lost their jobs while are on a limited income. There are many proper ways people can get financial aid from applying for unemployment or other government programs to getting a loan from a financial institution. The problem comes when scammers take advantage of the frightened and vulnerable with offers of financial aid.
Scammers are calling or emailing, pretending to be from an organization offering financial aid in order to get your personal information. They might pretend to be from the government, a company offering stay-at-home work, or even from Pioneer.
In order to protect yourself, keep track of what financial aid offers you’ve applied for and the agencies you’ve applied with. Government agencies won’t reach out to you unless you contact them first, and while financial institutions might email you offers, they typically don’t make phone calls unless you request it.
If you ever feel unsure about an offer you receive or one you didn’t request, hang up and do some research. Find their official number to contact them and ask if they actually called you or if it was a scammer. The same is true if somebody from Pioneer reaches out to you. If you think it’s a scam, hang up and call us at (208) 587-3304.
Social Security Suspension Scam
Another common hoax right now targets those on Social Security. Some people are getting a letter claiming that, due to COVID-19, the Social Security offices are closed and their payment will be suspended or cancelled. The letter lists a phone number to call to ensure the benefits remain open. From there, the scammer might try to obtain personal and financial information or get payment via retail gift card, wire transfers, internet currency, or mailing cash.
Social Security is not currently paused or cancelled even though local offices are closed. There are no predicted delays for checks, and any type of letter claiming otherwise is a scam. Social Security will never threaten ending benefits, ask for payment for continuation of benefits, or demand secrecy in handling a Social Security matter.
Access to COVID-19 Testing or Vaccine
Whether it’s a phone call, email, letter, home visit, or even a physical location, many scammers are trying to convince people they have COVID-19 tests or a vaccine available for purchase. Scammers might pretend to be from Medicare, the CDC, or a local health care provider.
These scammers are likely looking for personal information they can use to access your finances or steal your identity or are asking for payment for the tests/vaccine. Please do not trust anybody who visits your home, reaches out with a special offer, or is not clearly affiliated with a medical provider. Most testing sites are located just outside medical buildings such as doctor’s offices and hospitals. If you want to get tested for coronavirus, please reach out to your health care provider for direction on where to go. Unless you are positive somebody is a trained medical professional, do not allow them to administer tests, medicine, or a vaccine to you.
Many of these scammers are trying to get money in exchange for their false tests or medicine, but others may be looking for information commonly given to medical staff like your Social Security Number, payment information, and personal info in order to steal your identity.
Protect Yourself and Research Any Offers
Be sure to double check any emails, phone calls, or offers you might receive during this time. Scammers are very skilled at appearing to be official representatives from places you trust such as government agencies, local businesses, and even Pioneer. Please read our blog post on identifying messages from Pioneer to stay up-to-date on how we reach out to our members.
As for aid during the COVID-19 situation, Pioneer does offer financial aid to new and existing members with a variety of products. Visit our COVID-19 page to learn what we are currently doing to assist our members and help prevent the spread of the disease.
Learn More About COVID-19