Not that we’d wish disease on anybody, but if karma is paying attention, here’s a group of ill-mannered people who wouldn’t get much sympathy if they caught the coronavirus: jerks who try to scam people during this pandemic.
The warnings have come from all levels of government. Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh (D) and Maryland Secretary of State John Wobensmith recently put out the clarion call for folks to be on the lookout.
“During uncertain times, con artists prey on your generosity and create scams, frauds or deceptive acts to line their own pockets,” Wobensmith said in a release, noting that his office keeps a public registry of authorized, licensed charities. You can find that list at https://sos.maryland.gov/Charity/Pages/SearchCharity.aspx.
Frosh says the Federal Trade Commission has reported scammers taking advantage of people’s anxieties during the pandemic, to the point of trying to sell counterfeit COVID-19 testing products.
Here in Talbot, the sheriff’s office has pointed out that seniors should be cautious of scams surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. Social Security benefits will continue to be paid during the outbreak, a release from the agency says, and seniors should be aware scammers may attempt to steal their personal information, or take payment, making false claims that money or gift cards are necessary to continue Social Security payments or the economic impact direct payment from the U.S. Department of the Treasury.
Seniors also should be on the lookout for email or phishing scams, which may contain suspicious links. Recipients of such emails should contact the suspected sender by phone to confirm the email is from them, the release says.
Andrew Saul, SSA commissioner, insisted this week Social Security and Supplemental Security Income benefit payments will continue to be paid on time during the COVID-19 pandemic. Also, he said, no one from the agency would ever contact a citizen by telephone seeking any information or requiring any financial action on their part.
Phishing, texts and impersonation scams are a constant threat. As more states issue or extend “stay home” directives, scammers can take advantage of a unique opportunity where millions of people will have even less contact with friends, family and religious communities. People won’t be around someone who might alert them to trouble.
Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) also warns of a scam involving stealing of the soon-to-be-issued government stimulus checks, or about the moving of tax filing deadlines. In the last week or so, his office reports, there has been an uptick in both individuals and tax preparers being targeted.
“Do not share any personal information over the phone, via text message or email,” Franchot said. “My agency is committed to protecting Maryland taxpayers and remains vigilant for phone, texting and email phishing scams that seek to steal people’s private financial information. These types of crimes can lead to fraudulent tax returns, identity theft and can devastate the victims’ financial well-being, especially during this time when people are counting on those checks to survive.” If you think you are being targeted, email email@example.com.
And in a scam that should serve as a cautionary tale that some folks think the quickest way to the heart is through the wallet, a new study shows that while online dating is surging during the pandemic, Maryland residents are the No. 14 most at risk for online romance scams. Bumble and Tinder, especially, have seen increases as scammers try to satisfy their love for cash during the time of the coronavirus. Romance and catfishing scams are sure to continue spiking along with the number of COVID-19 cases.
So maybe a new item needs to be added to the protocol of making yourself safe during the pandemic. Along with washing your hands and practicing social distancing, be especially alert to anything that sounds too good to be true involving your money.