As the Coronavirus takes a growing toll on people’s pocketbooks, there are reports that the government will soon be sending money by check or direct deposit to each of us. The details are still being worked out, but there are a few really important things to know, no matter what this looks like.
1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
3. These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
Look, normally we’d wait to know what the payment plan looks like before we put out a message like this. But these aren’t normal times. And we predict that the scammers are gearing up to take advantage of this.
So, remember: no matter what this payment winds up being, only scammers will ask you to pay to get it. If you spot one of these scams, please tell the Federal Trade Commission: www.ftc.gov/complaint. We’re doing our best to stop these scammers in their tracks, and your report will help.
Avoid Coronavirus Scams
Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:
Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
The FTC and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the Coronavirus. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.
The FTC says the companies have no evidence to back up their claims — as required by law. The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus. Read more about the warning letters.
Sprays and pills that cure it all? Not true.
Marketers try to sell us things like sprays and pills that supposedly cure it all, help us lose weight, get rid of wrinkles, and more. But some marketers make claims about their products without having any proof and may lie about the results people experience after using their products. That’s what the FTC alleges Health Center Inc. and its owner Peggy Pearce, the telemarketers of Rejuvi-Cell, Rejuvi-Sea, and Rejuvi-Stem, did.
Health Center claimed its “Rejuvi” health products could cure everything from cancer, arthritis, and Alzheimer’s disease to depression, diabetes, and obesity, either by spraying their homeopathic product, Rejuvi-Cell, under the tongue, or by taking a few pills of Rejuvi-Sea or Rejuvi-Stem. The FTC says that Health Center didn’t have any scientific evidence to back up those claims. And the testimonials on the company’s websites were written by employees, not actual customers. All these actions are deceptive, says the FTC.
When it comes to health issues, we all want a quick and easy solution. Add to that the pressure that telemarketers put on people, and it’s easy to see how someone may fall for empty promises. But there are a few things that we can learn from this case:
- Don’t trust products that promise to cure lots of medical issues. Nothing can cure it all.
- Traditional homeopathic products lack reliable scientific evidence for their claims of effectiveness. They are not evaluated for safety and effectiveness by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Take testimonials with a grain of salt. Look for reviews on your own. Search the product online and put words like “problems” or “complaints” to see what others are saying about the products.
- It’s best to always consult a healthcare provider before trying a new medical treatment, especially if it’s for a serious condition.
Undelivered goods: Online sellers claim they have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. You place an order, but you never get your shipment. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name — including scammers.
What to do: Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction. If you’re concerned about the pricing of products in your area, contact your state consumer protection officials. For a complete list of state Attorneys General, visit naag.org.
Fake charities: When a major health event — like the Coronavirus — happens, you might be looking for ways to help. Scammers use the same events to take advantage of your generosity. Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving. Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need.
Fake emails, texts and phishing: Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information — like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords. They use your information to steal your money, your identity, or both. They also use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network. If you click on a link, they can install ransomware or other programs that can lock you out of your data. Scammers often use familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know. Here’s a real-world example of a scam where phishers pretend to be the World Health Organization (WHO).
For more, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/