Scammers Are Busy During the COVID-19 Crisis, So Be Aware

Scammers Are Busy During the COVID-19 Crisis, So Be Aware

  • Discover ways scammers will try to get your personal information.
  • Learn how to spot a bogus email.
  • Learn to recognize a real request.
  • Find out what to do if you get an email you’re uncomfortable ignoring.

As part of the efforts to contain the COVID-19 outbreak, the elderly, especially those over the age of 80 who are most susceptible to the dangers of the virus, have been asked to self-isolate themselves. At the same time, the public has been asked to assist family, friends and neighbors who can’t do their own their grocery shopping, pick up medication, or need other assistance.

Unfortunately, there are those among us who would take advantage during this crisis. For instance, someone pretending to be a neighbor may call and offer to provide assistance with grocery shopping. Or the caller might pretend to be from a charitable or government service that provides shopping services for those confined at home.

At Fiducial, we hear about scams like this everyday. These crooks are clever, so you have to be very cautious. If you don’t know the person, don’t give them your credit card number or any other personal information. Some information they may ask for is your Social Security number, driver’s license, bank information, passwords or other financial information. Just hang up.

Are you a family member of someone who is confined at home and might not be aware of their risk of being scammed? Please take time to call them and caution them about the risks.

Email Scammers

This is also a good time to discuss other means scammers use to steal your identity or separate you from your money. One of the most popular methods these unscrupulous people use is requesting your personal information by e-mail. They are pretty good at making their e-mails look as if they came from places like the IRS, your credit card company, or your bank.

You need to be very careful when responding to e-mails asking you to update things such as your account information, personal identification number (PIN), or password. First and foremost, you should be aware that no legitimate company would make such a request by e-mail. If one does, the e-mail should be deleted and ignored, just like spam e-mails.

email scammers, bogus emails
Photographer: Webaroo | Source: Unsplash

How to Spot Bogus Emails from Scammers

We have seen bogus e-mails that looked like they were from the IRS, well-known banks, credit card companies, etc. The intent is to trick you. Scammers want you to click through to a website that also appears legitimate. There, they have you enter your secure information. Here are some examples:

  • E-mails that appear to be from the IRS indicating you have a refund coming and claiming that additional information is needed to process the refund. The IRS never initiates communication via e-mail! If you receive this type of e-mail, you should know right away that it is bogus. If you are concerned, please feel free to call this office.
  • E-mails from a bank indicating that it is holding a wire transfer and needs your bank routing information and account number. Don’t respond. If in doubt, call your bank.
  • E-mails saying you have a foreign inheritance and that the sender needs your bank info to wire the funds. The funds that will get wired are yours going the other way. Remember: if it seems too good to be true, it generally is.

We have seen cases where elderly individuals have been duped out of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Sometimes, they even lose their entire life savings. The scammers primarily rely on individuals’ fear of the IRS, coupled with a phony urgent need to make a payment to avoid arrest, foreclosure, or property seizure.

We could go on and on with examples. The key: Be highly suspect of any e-mail requesting personal or financial information or requesting an immediate tax payment. Scammers will generally request payment be made by gift card, which should be an immediate RED FLAG!

A good rule of thumb is to STOP—THINK—DELETE.

How to Recognize a Real Request

If you receive electronic correspondence from the IRS, your state taxing agency, a credit card company, or a financial institution and feel uncomfortable ignoring it, call this office to check so you won’t need to worry.

Knowing that this is the time of year when the IRS sends correspondence to taxpayers, scammers will send fake letters to trick people into making payments on bogus tax liabilities. As a result, taxpayers need to be very careful to avoid being hoodwinked by these thieves. The best practice is to have a tax professional review any letter that you receive before you take any action. If the letter is real, then it will require a timely response. If it is fake, it should be ignored.

Scammers have also been known to call individuals and threaten immediate arrest if a payment related to a phony liability is not immediately made. Just the threat of arrest is enough to know that the call is from a scammer. You should immediately hang up.

Bottom line: You must be on guard against these scammers at all times. Don’t be a victim. Call Fiducial at 1-866-FIDUCIAL or make an appointment at one of our office locations if you have questions or believe your tax ID has been compromised. Ready to book an appointment now? Click here. Know someone who might need our services? We love referrals!

For more small business COVID-19 resources, visit Fiducial’s Coronavirus Update Center to find information on SBA loans, tax updates, the Paycheck Protection Program, paid sick and family leave, and more.