It’s no secret that America is in a time of crisis. Everywhere you look, people feel the pangs of the Novel Coronavirus, also known as COVID-19. While there are plenty of people willing to sacrifice and help, others seek to take advantage of the vulnerable. As such, Coronavirus scams currently run rampant.
You need to arm yourself against such scams. Above all, you need to be on your guard. Don’t let yourself become a victim. Instead, fill yourself with knowledge and awareness.
Also, it’s important to always check your sources. As you may have noticed, just about anybody with a social media account can post Coronavirus “facts” on a whim. Such “facts” can spread panic and leave people vulnerable to scams. Remember, if something sounds “too good to be true,” it probably is.
About the CARES Act and Coronavirus Relief Plan
First, I want to explain a little more about the CARES Act and what it means for you. Congress passed the CARES Act on March 27th, 2020 as a way to provide relief to the American public. The CARES Act includes provisions for American families, small businesses local governments, and more.
Of course, we can’t forget about the one provision everyone talks about! As you probably know, I’m talking about cash payments to almost every American household (AKA Economic Impact Payments or “stimulus checks”). These payments were first made via direct deposit by the IRS. However, those who do not have their banking information on file will have to wait for a paper check.
So, what are the payments you can expect? Basically, if you make $75,000 or less and are single, you get $1,200. Likewise, married couples who make $150,000 or less get $2,400. Additionally, each household gets $500 for every dependent age 16 or younger. If you make more than those amounts, they reduce the amount you receive. You can read more about the payments here.
As you can imagine, such large amounts of money going to people is a juicy target for scammers. They will prey on the fear of the vulnerable, looking to deceive and manipulate others into giving them money they don’t deserve. So, I present to you some of the more common Coronavirus scams.
1. Phone Calls about your “Stimulus Check”
Okay, there are a couple of red flags with this one. For one, the government never refers to your stimulus payment as your “Stimulus Check.” Instead, the IRS prefers the wordy phrase “Economic Impact Payment.” We all know the government likes to make things sound lofty and important. And these payments are no exception!
The second red flag is that the IRS will NEVER call you about the payment. That’s right! The IRS doesn’t have the time or money to pay people to bother you about your economic impact payment. They don’t even want you calling THEM about it!
If you receive a phone call asking for information about your stimulus check, it’s a scam. Hang up and block their number. Report the number to the proper authorities if you can. I’ll say this again, the IRS and other government entities DO NOT call you randomly and ask for your personal information.
If you need to find out about the status of your economic impact payment, you can go to the IRS website. This is the ONLY reliable way to find out about your payment status.
2. Advertisements for Coronavirus Vaccines or Treatments
There is no Coronavirus vaccine. Furthermore, there aren’t any know drugs or treatments that prevent you from catching COVID-19. Any and every online advertisement you see that says otherwise is a scam.
These ads are akin to an 1800s sleazy traveling salesman who sells snake oil. Don’t click on the them, don’t read them, and don’t believe them.
3. Advertisements for Coronavirus Test Kits
There is a home test kit available. But guess what? You can’t just buy it on the internet. Furthermore, only doctors can issue a home test kit. That means you shouldn’t be buying one on eBay.
Other test kits are not approved by the Food and Drug Administration. Also, they may give you accurate results. Believe me, the people putting these test kits forward are NOT trying to help you. They are just trying to get your money.
4. Working from Home Scams
Millions of Americans are out of work due to the Coronavirus shutting down much of the economy. Naturally, some job-seekers would see home-based jobs as a safe alternative to having to go into the virus-infested world. Unfortunately, there are scammers looking to take advantage of the unemployed.
Work-from-home scams are nothing new. However, they’re reaching an unprecedented level with the COVID-19 situation.
Avoid using search terms like “work from home” when looking for jobs. Scammers often post fake jobs with those words. Also, don’t give anyone your personal information who randomly calls with a job offer. If you didn’t apply to a company, there’s no reason for them to offer you a job.
5. Fake Information Websites
Johns Hopkins University has an excellent map showing the extent and spread of the Coronavirus. It’s a useful tool for keeping up with the happenings of COVID-19. However, scammers made a fake page designed to load malware on your computer and steal your information.
The lesson here is to be careful where you click. Make sure you go to trusted websites for information such as coronavirus.gov or the CDC website. Don’t click random links posted on social media or other places. Be aware of where your click will take you.
6. Emails Claiming to be the CDC or WHO
The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) don’t email random people and ask for their information. Indeed, emails claiming to be one of these entities are scammers trying to get your information.
I implore you, do not even open these emails. Opening strange emails and clicking on strange links can lead to your computer being infected with malware. This can further lead to identity theft, stolen passwords, and stolen bank information.
7. Charity Scams
There are some amazing charities doing great work during this time. Conversely, there are plenty of fake charities who are trying to tug on your heartstrings to steal your money. Always do your research on charities before donating. After all, you always want to make sure your money goes towards helping people in need.
Protect Yourself from Coronavirus Scams
The best way to protect yourself from Coronavirus scams is to be alert. Stay away from clicking strange things on the internet and hang up on robocalls. Also, be aware that government entities will not call you and solicit personal information from you. Most banks and other businesses have policies against this as well.
Remember, don’t allow yourself to become a victim. Instead, keep your head on straight and don’t give in to panic. Don’t allow scammers to pressure you into doing something uncomfortable.
What if I need help with my finances during COVID-19?
Perhaps you feel like you’ll never gain control of your financial situation. Maybe you even fell victim to one of these Coronavirus scams. If you feel stuck and don’t know how to take control of your finances during this time, You may want to consider Financial Coaching.
I encourage you to develop a plan to take control of your finances. Start with building a budget and getting out of debt so you can pursue God’s call in your life without hindrance. And remember to keep your head, even in the middle of a crisis.
There is hope for you, even in the midst of a pandemic. Don’t give up, don’t panic, and don’t give in to fear. You CAN take control of your situation.