If you work in the caregiving industry, you may already have heard about the various online scams that target senior citizens and have taken the steps necessary to inform your elderly loved ones for their protection. As the United States grapples with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic though, thousands of quick-thinking scammers have begun taking advantage of the vulnerable elderly and preying on their fears of the virus. Below we’ve broken down some of the most common scams related to the novel coronavirus so you can be aware of how to spot one and thus, avoid it.
COVID-19 Test Kits
The first scam involves unauthorized individuals (ie. scammers) who send messages and make phone calls to the elderly offering COVID-19 test kits. Not only do they likely not own any inventory of the product, but this whole endeavor is performed with the goal of collecting credit card or banking information. Some scammers pose as government officials from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) are asking senior citizens to “verify” their ID for public health insurance programs or even to reveal their Social Security number. Some scammers also ask their victims for their home addresses, claiming that they will drop off the test kit.
Phony COVID-19-Related Products, Services & Insurance Scams
Some scammers are falsely advertising products including fake drugs, devices and vaccines that they claim will either prevent or cure coronavirus. While some scams exploit fears of shortages and encourage older citizens to stock up on whatever phony items they’re selling (often with drastically high prices), other scams offer in-home services such as HVAC cleaning that they claim will offer protection against COVID-19. There have also been a number of reports of fake gift-card emails and text messages sent to vulnerable individuals offering a “reward” for following public health guidelines like staying home or social distancing.
Other scams are offering low-cost health and life insurance as bonuses their “customers” will get if they purchase a COVID-19 test kit or other product.
Impersonators & Insurance Scams
This next scam is essentially a COVID-19-inspired version of an already prominent scam targeting senior citizens. Scammers will pose as officials from the Social Security Administration and contact older individuals to deliver the news that their benefits will be either decreased or halt completely due to “COVID-19” unless they either provide some sort of personal information or send a payment.
The stimulus scam is unfortunately probably one of the easiest for scammers to pull off on unsuspecting victims especially given the current climate. This scam asks consumers to provide their banking information, whether over the phone or through the internet, so that their stimulus payment can be approved and released. Unsurprisingly, the only organization that can provide individuals with any promise stimulus payment is the federal government.
How Can I Help A Senior Loved One Avoid COVID-19 Scams?
The best thing you can do as someone who understands the different types of scams that target older individuals is to offer your senior loved ones the insight below.
- Don’t answer calls or messages that come from unfamiliar or suspicious phone numbers.
- Never share personal or financial information over the phone, email, or text.
- Be suspicious of any individual who pressures you to make an immediate payment or reveal personal information.
- Avoid clicking suspicious links in emails or text messages, even if they appear to be sent by a friend or family member.
- Always verify charities by calling or checking the organization’s website before making any payments.
With the coronavirus pandemic among us, it’s unfortunately made it much easier for scammers to prey on the pain points of senior citizens and in too many cases, steal their hard earned money. If you or a loved one have been a victim of a COVID-19 related scam, you should immediately file a complaint with the FCC and local law enforcement. Be sure to also report any compromised personal or financial information to the appropriate bank or other organization. Taking these steps can help minimize any potential damage as well as prevent future fraud.