ANNAPOLIS, Md. — Con artists like to take advantage of people when a crisis strikes, so it’s no surprise that scams are on the rise in the COVID-19 pandemic — and vulnerable older Americans are particular targets.
One popular scam right now asks for payment for a vaccine or treatment for the coronavirus – and it may surface as a call, email or text message, according to Kathy Stokes, director of fraud protection at AARP.
She says seniors, who are most susceptible to the virus, also are the most likely to fall for scams.
“We all know that a vaccine is probably a pretty long way away,” says Stokes. “But scammers are trying to get us as we’re already anxious about this — to believe that there’s a cure down the path, or a vaccine to prevent it down the path.”
She says people can protect themselves by learning more about the scams that are circulating. And if you think you’ve been ripped off, report it to the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877-908-3360.
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act is a new law that’s providing stimulus checks to more than 100 million Americans. Stokes points out that even before the bill was signed into law, scammers were already calling people, claiming to be from the federal government requesting bank account information so they can ‘deposit’ the check.
She warns that isn’t how this government program is operating.
“Just know that the government is not going to call you for information so they can deposit it,” says Stokes. “If you get someone saying that they can speed up the payment for you, that’s an absolute scam. Just wait for the check.”
She says as of April 1, the Federal Trade Commission had received more than 8,000 consumer complaints related to the COVID-19 outbreak. Victims have already reported losing almost $6 million.