Tips to avoid COVID-related financial scams and fraud
As if the dire consequences of the coronavirus pandemic on public health and the economy were not challenging enough, people also need to be diligent in protecting themselves against a surge in COVID-related financial scams.
Government agencies around the world ranging from INTERPOL to U.S. law enforcement agencies are warning individuals and businesses to be aware of COVID-related crimes. Examples of such schemes range from the sale of fake “miracle” cures and test kits to fraudulent GoFundMe pages. The magnitude of the problem has grown rapidly. INTERPOL has reported monetary losses for even single cases that have soared into the hundreds of thousands of dollars with sophisticated cybercriminals crossing international boundaries to target victims in Europe, Asia and the U.S. Gmail recently announced that it is blocking an estimated 18 million spam emails per day that are aimed at taking advantage of or defrauding its email account holders.
Some examples of COVID-related scams that have surfaced include:
- Cybercriminals call victims pretending to be clinic or hospital officials seeing payments for medical treatment for a relative of the victim who has fallen sick with the virus.
- Phishing is where criminals deceive people into sharing sensitive information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. A variety of COVID-related phishing scams via text and email are offering fake applications to access government relief and funds through the CARES Act. In some cases, those phishing attacks are using information for identity theft.
- Social media scams are fraudulently seeking donations or claiming to provide stimulus funds if the recipient enters his or her bank account information.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information are in reality infecting and locking devices with malware until payment is received.
- Fraudulent charities or individuals seeking donations through GoFundMe pages.
- Fake requests to change payment information on things such as mortgages, auto loans or other vendor payments.
- Employment scams are asking consumers to provide their account number and debit card number to set up direct deposit for payments due to business disruption.
Tips to keep finances safe
Individuals can take a variety of different steps to safeguard themselves from financial fraud and scams. Some of the best advice is to simply be aware of the fraud that is occurring and look at things with a more critical eye. Other suggestions include:
- Beware of “cold calls” or unsolicited requests for information, even from those claiming to be from a bank or the IRS. Legitimate institutions do not contact customers over the phone to request personal information, passwords or log-in information.
- Don’t trust the caller ID: Criminals are able to create fakes IDs that trick people into thinking calls are from a specific financial institution or government agency, such as the IRS or the Social Security Administration.
- Think before you click: Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to get people to click on a malicious link that contains malware to infect devices or steal personal information. Be careful clinking on any links, even from those sent by someone you know.
- Monitor your financial statements regularly for unexpected activity and watch for emails or mail that says you have changed or updated account information.
- Contact your bank or financial institution immediately if you notice any suspicious activity.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money. Verify the authenticity or go directly to a charitable organization’s website rather than following a link. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation, especially those who are looking for cash, gift cards or bank wires for money.
- Do watch out for family members, especially older relatives who may be vulnerable to scammers.
Some resources to learn more about current fraud schemes and what you can do to protect your wealth include:
The Department of Justice provides information, FAQ and examples of COVID-related fraud.
The Federal Trade Commission offers information on current scams targeting consumers, as well as tips on how to avoid them.
About CanAm Capital Partners
CanAm Capital Partners, LLC (“CACP”) is a New York-based private equity investor, manager and advisor with a primary focus on real estate principal investment. CACP is an affiliate of CanAm Enterprises, the largest EB-5 lender in the United States. CACP and its affiliates have been involved as a principal or lender in transactions with an aggregate transaction value in excess of $3 billion in multiple markets across the U.S. For more information, please visit www.canamcapital.com/cacp.