Be on guard against coronavirus scams
By: Cheryl Tira
Even when the world is going through a crisis such as the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, scammers are out there. They watch the news and then try to prey on people’s fears and worries. But you can do your part to stay safe. The following tips from the Federal Trade Commission can help you be alert to scams and protect your health, finances and personal information.
Hang up on robocalls. Robocalls are prerecorded messages that may pitch scam COVID-19 tests and treatments, work-at-home schemes or legal action. Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number can connect you with a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it instead may just lead to more robocalls. Just hang up.
Beware of fraudulent stimulus check texts, calls and emails. Stimulus relief fraud is on the rise and may remain active during the pandemic. If you are eligible, the government is planning to send checks by direct deposit, so do not reply to any requests for personal information to "claim your check." Check the IRS website at irs.gov for up-to-date information if you have questions.
Disregard online offers for COVID-19 treatments or cures. There are no vaccines, pills or other products currently approved to treat or eliminate coronavirus at this time.
Beware of who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have high-demand products like household cleaners, paper products and medical supplies when they don’t, and are only seeking your personal information and money. Stick with companies you know and trust.
Don’t click on links or download attachments from unfamiliar sources. The link or attachment could download viruses onto your computer or device. Delete emails and texts that look suspicious.
Watch out for charity scams. It’s natural to want to help those in need during a difficult time, but some charities or crowdfunding information could be fraudulent. Don’t let anyone pressure you into making a donation. Say you are doing your research first and don’t provide personal information. Also, don’t respond to anyone asking you to donate by gift card or wiring money. You can research legitimate charities through Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org) and the IRS (irs.gov).
Fact-check everything. Even a message forwarded from a friend with good intentions can contain misleading information. Check trusted sources for reliable health information that has been verified by medical experts, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at cdc.gov or the World Health Organization at who.int.
Staying on guard is important all the time, but especially during a time of uncertainty when information changes quickly.
Cheryl Tira is the director of information systems at Columbus Community Hospital.