New coronavirus (COVID-19) Social Security Scams Emerge – What to look out for to protect yourself.
Earlier this month, we shared a blog post of emerging Social Security scams that were taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic. Unfortunately, more scams have been reported targeting Social Security beneficiaries. In the previous post, two scams were highlighted. The first was a threat of the loss of benefits due to COVID-19 related closures. The second was the offering of COVID-19 testing or treatment kits to Medicare beneficiaries in return for personal information. These threats and promises are not valid, and the Social Security Administration encourages those who receive scam communications to report them.
The Federal Trade Commission, state Departments of Health and Human Services, and the Social Security Administration have released information to warn and protect people from new scams. As the situation surrounding COVID-19 continues to change, scams are evolving alongside them.
Extra Relief Payments
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning the public against fraudulent messages claiming they are approved for relief payments, grants, or small business loans because of the coronavirus pandemic. These messages may come in the form of a call, text, or email, claiming they are from the Social Security Administration (The Social Security Administration (SSA) is a U.S. government agency that administers social programs covering disability, retirement, and survivors' benefits. It was created in 1935 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.), Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Census Bureau, United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). The messages may say you have been approved for this money or that a check is available for pickup. In exchange for the promised funds, you may be asked for personal information or money. The FTC advises to not share your information or send money to any source you do not find trustworthy.
Remote Services Scams
Another new scam is the offering of remote services, like grocery delivery or legal help, without your request for this service. The Montana Department of Public Health and Human Services (DPHHS) warned about these offerings and other scams in a public memo. Their announcement recommends that if you do need remote services, seek services on your own or with the help of someone you trust.
While charity scams are not necessarily unique to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, scammers’ tactics may have changed. You may receive a call requesting a donation to a charity or COVID-19 relief related cause. DPHHS advises to research a charity before agreeing to donate.
Offering Fraudulent Cures, Vaccines, or Treatments
Any cure, vaccine, or treatment for COVID-19 must be approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) before becoming available to the public. Once a cure or vaccine is found, it will be offered by medical facilities. If you are receiving calls, advertisements, or a salesperson offering a cure or vaccine, the DPHHS warns it is illegitimate.
Offering Commodities at High Costs
This offering-based scam is selling products that are highly sought after because of coronavirus, such as face masks or disinfectant products, at a high price. DPHHS says to be cautious if it is not from a reputable, licensed retailer.
Being Cautious & Communicating
Along with sharing information on how scams have evolved, the SSA and FTC are reminding people the basics of avoiding them. The SSA shares these guidelines to protect yourself, your family, and your friends from fraudulent claims:
- The SSA may call you, but they will never threaten you, suspend your Social Security number, request immediate payment, or request payment via cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wired money transfer.
- The SSA says to more easily identify a scammer, look for the following hints:
- The caller claims there is a problem with your Social Security number or account
- The caller requests payment via cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, or wired money transfer
- The caller threatens you will be arrested or other legal action will be taken
- Even though the Caller ID or email address may look official, these indicators do not mean it is a valid source.
It is unfortunate that scammers are taking advantage of the stress already surrounding the coronavirus pandemic. The SSA recommends staying informed, not returning unknown calls, and communicating with those you trust about concerns you may have to avoid falling victim to scams.
For more information on the coronavirus (COVID-19) scams check out the following links:
“Protect yourself from theft schemes targeting personal information, resources.” https://oig.ssa.gov/scam
“Protect yourself from Social Security Scams” https://www.ssa.gov/scam/