Scammers look to cash in on COVID-19 pandemic

Scammers look to cash in on COVID-19 pandemic

By DEVIN PAVLOU, Alabama Daily News

While staying home and away from the coronavirus, Alabamians also need to avoid scammers. New forms of scams are targeting people’s insecurities about the COVID-19 pandemic, law enforcement warned recently.

“Unfortunately, criminals have never seen a crisis that they couldn’t find a way to exploit,” U.S. Attorney Louis V. Franklin said in a written statement.

Scammers are targeting vulnerable people, Franklin said, and that the best thing to do is to verify information before making final decisions on anything regarding the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Alabama Department of Senior Services this week warned older Alabamians to be especially cautious.

“This is the ideal time for a scammer to prey on fear of our seniors,” Commissioner Jean Brown said in a written statement. “Stay alert and do not respond to a text, email or phone call from a sender that is unfamiliar, even if it looks official or appears to be from a respected agency or company.”

A Better Business Bureau report said seniors are receiving text messages from scammers posing as the U.S. Department of Health, about taking a mandatory online COVID-19 test in order to receive the recently approved stimulus payment. Others are receiving emails stating they qualify for a payment and to click on a link to claim a check.

“Remember to protect your Medicare number and only provide it to your doctor and Medicare providers.” Brown said.

She also said seniors should be cautious of anyone going door-to-door offering coronavirus testing, supplies or treatments.

Information from Franklin listed several possible scams:

  • Anyone selling fake test kits, treatments, or cures for COVID-19 with no intent to deliver. Always verify that the supplier is legitimate.
  • Those seeking donations for questionable or nonexistent COVID-19 charities. Be sure to verify the legitimacy of any organization before donating and don’t let them pressure you into making a hasty decision. If someone wants payment in cash, money wire or gift cards, be careful. These are the preferred payments of scammers.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization, which may contain malware. Avoid clicking links or opening attachments unless you are certain of the source.
  • Websites, calls or emails stating that they have your stimulus check but you must provide certain personal information to receive and claim it.
  • Hoarding or price gouging of necessary supplies.

If you think you have been a target or victim of a scam or fraud you can call and report it without having to leave your home by calling 1-(866) 720-5721 or email www.diaster@leo.gov.