Avoiding Scams in the Time of COVID-19
Con-men take advantage of people at their most vulnerable. They do this because they know that people make bad choices when they’re scared, mad, stressed, or otherwise, emotional. They play on people’s fears and desires. They represent compassion and often are “just trying to help you out.” They use the fact that most of us want to believe that others are generally good to defraud and steal from people. With the uncertainty that is coming from COVID-19 and the government’s response, con-men are hard at work trying to get your money and property. You need to protect yourself. Don’t fall for their messages, educate yourself, and realize that if you aren’t careful, you can still fall for a con.
It’s Too Good to Be True
If it’s too good to be true, it probably is a scam. Scams succeed for different reasons depending on the scam. However, they all have one thing in common. They offer results or a product that are too good to be true, but that the victim wants to believe is true. The most familiar version of this is “This diet will help you lose weight and keep it off while allowing you to sit on the couch and eat what you love.” The only ways to lose weight are to eat better and exercise, do drugs, or get seriously ill. Unfortunately, people buy into this scam because they want an easy fix. Homemade cures for COVID-19, or blaming technological advances for the disease are part of the scams that Americans are falling for on a wide scale.
With the economic impact of COVID-19, scammers are offering to save homeowners from foreclosure. If you get an unsolicited call or email regarding your home and its foreclosure, ignore it. Only work with reputable companies that you know will help you. That means verifying what the person says and who they work for. Never give any details over the phone.
Pressure to Commit
Many scams work because the offer they are providing is only good for a limited time. If someone says that you need to commit now or in the next couple of days, hang up. Any time you feel pressured into doing something, even if it’s legitimate, you’re going to feel remorse afterwards. If you have to commit during a phone call that you received for no reason or the deal will disappear, it’s a scam. Even if the person gives you an hour or two to decide, that time pressure is something you don’t need, and it generally indicates something wrong with the offer. “I’ll send you these face masks for a penny (a dollar, $5) each if you just give me your bank account number right now.” Don’t give any information to someone you don’t know.
Where Do Cons Come from?
You might get a text, email, or phone call offering you a test or cure for coronavirus. You might even see an ad on your computer or on the TV. Your social media friends could post something about “a great opportunity” to get medication and personal protection equipment (PPE) at a super discounted price. These are likely all scams. The only way to be sure is to know the person making the offer (not the person sharing the offer) and to do the research on that person, which means a little more than looking them up online.
Never click on the link provide. Remember people can fake information about your friends, family, and companies like Netflix. You might see an email from your mother, but if you hover over her name, you’ll see an email address that isn’t hers. You can check with the FCC about active scams. You can check with the CDC about information related to the coronavirus and COVID-19. If you still think the communication is legitimate, go to a search engine and search for the company. Contact them from there, and do not click on the link you received.
Falling for a Con
Everyone thinks they are too sophisticated to fall for a con. They’ve read about it, they know the warning signs, and they are certain that it can’t happen to them. Unfortunately, it happens all the time, and people, who think they won’t, are more likely to fall for cons. If you’ve made a mistake and fallen for a con, it’s okay. Yes, you’ll have consequences and fallout to deal with, but that doesn’t make you a bad person. It’s the con-man that is the bad person. Report the crime to the police and the FTC, don’t recommend the person to your friends, and stop the con-man from hurting other people.
Too often, people are too ashamed to admit they’ve fallen for a con, especially if they like the perpetrator. There is no shame for falling for something that would make you a better person or take care of you and your family better. It happens to the best people. The shame is in allowing others to fall for it, too.