AARP: Scammers Are Trying to Take Your COVID-19 Stimulus Dollars

April 4, 2020, 4:54 PM HST · Updated April 4, 5:25 PM
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“The stimulus checks aren’t even in the mail, yet scammers are already trying to steal your $1,200 CARES Act monies,” according to reports coming in to the AARP Fraud Watch Network.

Among the scams reported so far – Imposters claiming to be from government agencies asking for personal information by phone, text and email so they can give you your money; Text messages and emails asking for people to click on a link to get their $1,000 assistance check; and Phone calls asking for bank information to deposit your “Trump Dollars.”

“Unfortunately, it’s not surprising that COVID-19 stimulus scams and other coronavirus scams are spreading nearly as fast as the virus itself,” said AARP Hawai`i State Director Keali`i Lopez. “Scammers look to capitalize on the news, especially if the headlines can instill fear and motivate people to act.”

In addition to stimulus check scams, con-artists are also offering corona virus testing, sometimes even going door to door, in an attempt to steal your health insurance or Medicare information to submit false claims or to steal your money. Scammers are impersonating the CDC and even offering fake cures or vaccines.

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“We are not seeing new scams as much as old scams that are being modified to take advantage of the COFID-19 pandemic,” Lopez said. “Scammers try to take you off your game and act emotionally, rather than logically and fear is a powerful emotion. The key to fighting these scammers is to educate yourself about scams. Just as you can protect yourself from the virus, you can also keep opportunistic scammers at bay with knowledge.”

How it works:

– Scammers may set up websites to sell bogus coronavirus products
— from face masks to vaccines to cure-alls
— and use fake emails, texts and social media posts to get you to share payment or sensitive personal information.
– You may come across emails or social media posts claiming to promote awareness and prevention tips, including fake information about cases in your neighborhood.
– Scammers may use this as a way to tout an alleged can’t-miss investment opportunity — say in face masks or a cure.
– You may get donation requests claiming to raise money to help victims.

What you should know:

– Know that there is currently no vaccine available for coronavirus.
– Any advertised investment opportunity that claims to ride the wave of economic activity due to the virus is probably an opportunity to lose money to a scam.
– Your best resources for information on the virus are the ones you know and trust
— but first verify that the resource is who you think it is.

What you should do:

– Links or texts from sources you don’t know could cause a malicious software virus to be download onto your device. Don’t click on email links from sources you don’t know. It could download malware on your device.
– Be suspicious of any emails claiming to be from the CDC or experts saying that have breaking news information about the virus. Emails from local, state or federal government entities will come from an address ending in .gov.
– Ignore any online offers for vaccinations or treatments. If a vaccine or treatment is developed, you will hear about it in the news, not on an online ad or sales pitch.
– If you receive a communication claiming to be from a government agency like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, close the email and then visit the agency’s website directly at cdc.gov. – Be on the lookout for requests for donations to help people affected by the coronavirus.
– Ask the caller to send information by mail, and to defer any decision to give a donation to a cause until you’ve researched it. Online options include www.charitynavigator.org and www.give.org.
– For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus, visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov. You can find AARP’s coronavirus resources and at https://aarp.org/coronavirus.
– For info on coronavirus-related scams from the Federal Trade Commission, visit www.ftc.gov/coronavirus.

Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at (877) 908-3360 to report a scam or for help if you think you’ve become a victim of one. You can also sign up for fee Watchdog Alerts and view an interactive map of scams reported in your area at aarp.org/fraudwatchnetwork.

AARP is the nation’s largest nonprofit, nonpartisan organization dedicated to empowering Americans 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. AARP has nearly 150,000 in Hawaiʻi. The organization aims to strengthen communities and “advocate for what matters most” to families with a focus on health security, financial stability and personal fulfillment.

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