As most of us are sequestered in our homes during the COVID-19 crisis, we have the opportunity to get better organized in our lives and prepare for the future. Hopefully, for most of us, the future will be bright as we return to our more normal lives. However, for some of us, the crisis will bring other life challenges. With so many people out of legitimate work. This is likely to be a time when crooks come out of the woodwork and take advantage of the situation. The results are the miracle cures the scams to get that government check, outright fraud and of course, identity theft.
This podcast today has three parts. The first part is about the obvious scams that are being seen all the time, some with a COVID-19 twist. The second part is some things that you can do to organize so that you will be in the best shape should you fall prey to some of these schemes. The third part is to provide critical steps that you need to take should you become a victim of identity theft.
$1200 Check Bait
Many millions of people are supposed to get a check from the government to tide us over during this very trying period. This unfortunately is like chum to a shark who wants to get his or her hands on your cheque. We don't know how the government is going to disseminate these checks, which opens the door to fraud.
One thing we do know, neither the government nor any financial institution is going to call you about that payment. If you get an email or a phone call from anyone with an official sounding organization, it is only someone trying to take that cheque away from you. It would be typical that the person contacting you would want to get bank account information, offer you in advance that gets the check or get enough information so that they would know where to find the check to steal it and cash it themselves. Please do not respond to any requests coming from the telephone or email regarding your 1200 dollar payment.
COVID Check Request
You receive an email message from a supposedly government entity telling you that you can get your COVID relief check if you submit a form. The form requests personal information which the scammer gets, but the underlying reason is to be able to infect your machine with malware. Bottom line, the government will not issue checks in this way, so please delete the message before doing anything.
We actually don't know when the checks will be coming. Some say it will be more than a month. This is an opening for someone to offer you an advance on the money you're expected to get. This can take several forms. It could be alone with high interest rates, or it could be more insidious, such as the promise of money sent to your bank account, as long as you give the scammer your account number. It could also be a check that when deposited gives the person your banking information. Don't fall for someone who tells you that you can get your money earlier.
Miracle Cures for COVID-19
All of us are desperate to find a cure for COVID-19. We're also desperate to take something that would make us immune. Unfortunately, there's no such remedies yet, so don't fall for the miracles that don't exist. That being said, there are a few supplements that might and I emphasize might have some benefit. Before You Buy or take anything, check with a trusted source.
Whenever there's a crisis like this, the charities or fake charities come out like weeds. This goes from GoFundMe accounts to all kinds of charities professing to help those in need because of COVID-19. But before you plunk down any of your hard earned money, make sure that the charity is legitimate by accessing one or more of the various sites designed for this purpose. Be careful about the names that are close to those of legitimate charities. Check the addresses as well as the names.
You can go to charity watch, Charity Navigator, give.org or The IRS' Exempt Organization Select check tool to find the charity.
Mandatory COVID-19 Test
This is a phone call or SMS message from someone posing as an employee of an organization such as the Health and Human Services telling you that they are conducting mandatory tests for COVID-19 and that you are required to fill out their questionnaire. They may say it's because you've been exposed to a COVID-19 patient. They may even tell you to take the answers to their questionnaire to a bogus test site. Of course, the questionnaire has compromising questions that you should not answer. This is a classic phishing scam to get your personal information. It makes no sense since no one in any of these agencies is reaching out in this way.
On the Spot COVID Test
Recently, a group of people who were dressed in white hazmat suits, set up a tent in a parking lot and proceeded to approach people offering tests for COVID-19 for $60. They were posing as a Private Testing Service under the auspices of the FDA. Since this is a totally unlikely scenario, eventually someone caught on and called the authorities. Of course, they had bogus tests, but for some time they collected $60 and a lot of personal information if anything like this happen To you please walk the other way.
In this case, someone is posing as a small business administration employee sends you an email telling you that you can get a loan from the SBA, which is true. And all you have to do is fill out an online form and attach your tax return. The form you fill out goes to the scammer, and you may be left with malware that compromises your machine. This scam really looks like the legitimate SBA form. The clue is that the SBA does not reach out like this, so don't fall for it.
What Can You Do?
ion. Also, what should you be doing to monitor your finances, to detect possible fraudulent activity? The first suggestion is to make a list of the types of finance-related information that is really important that you might need to know should you become a victim of fraud or robbery.
Here is a typical list:
- Credit card numbers with the credit card contact phone number.
- Bank account numbers with the bank contact phone number
- Investment account numbers with the investment companies contact phone number.
- Insurance company policy numbers with the insurance company's contact numbers.
- Your auto license and registration number.
- Your utility company account numbers with contact phone numbers. This includes electricity, gas, your landline phone if you have one, or your cell phone.
- The location of your file containing your insurance policies.
- Location of your trust or will.
- The location of important legal documents such as your marriage certificate, settlements, etc.
- Your attorney and his or her phone number.
- Your accountant and his or her phone number
- List of what credit cards and various IDs you carry in your wallet.
If you have a scanner, you might want to scan all the cards in your wallet and save the files in a safe place encrypted on your computer. You could also print it out and put it in your safe. The purpose of this document would be to allow you to make necessary contacts in the shortest amount of time. You should also keep your IDs and passwords for online access to your accounts in a secure place separate from the document we just discussed.
What if somehow, someway, some crook has gotten your social security number, bank account number with pin, your full name, full address, and some personal information about you? The crook then pretended to be you buying a bunch of stuff and getting loans and credit cards in your name. Identity theft is one of the most painful financial frauds that any one of us might have to endure, which makes it really important to follow the proper steps to clear your name in the shortest period possible with the least amount of loss.
The first thing that you're going to want to do is put a fraud alert on your credit scores, you're going to want to order your credit reports right away and create an identity theft report. And obviously if your passport, your birth certificates, are stolen too, you're going to want to do this as well.
To place an initial fraud alert, you need to only contact one credit reporting company. You don't need to report all of them, but you'll want to either contact Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion. You'll let them know that you're an identity theft victim. So ask them to put a fraud alert on your credit file and confirm that the company that you call will contact the other two companies. This is free and but It only lasts for 90 days.
You Can Get a Credit Freeze
Here's how you can do it. You would contact your State Attorney General's office and ask them if there's a fee for putting a freeze on your credit lines. Sometimes there is, and sometimes there's not. And you'll also want to ask them how long it lasts. And you can go to the web at NAAG.org and just ask them these questions. Also, when you are contacting the credit reporting agency, and this time, you'll want to contact all of them. And you'll ask them to put a freeze on your credit file, and you might need to pay a fee. So if the if your state does allow a fee, you'll need to pay that. So just keep that in mind.
Create an ID Theft Report
To get an ID theft report, you're going to submit a complaint about the theft to the FTC. And you're going to do this in writing. And you're going to print that report and it will print out as an ID theft affidavit. You're going to file a police report about the ID theft, and you'll get a copy of the police report.
After you get your ID Theft Affidavit, you're going to go to IdentityTheft.gov and click on Get Started. Now, if you can't do that, for some reason, maybe your computer was stolen, you can call 1-877-438-4338. You can create an account and if you do that identity theft.gov will walk you through each recovery step. They'll update your plan as needed and track your progress. And here's the cool thing. They will pre-fill forms and letters for you. And they'll allow you to update and view your affidavit at any time. If you don't create an account, you will not be able to access or update your information.
After that when you go to the police, you're going to want to bring a copy of your FTC ID Theft Affidavit, any proof of the theft. A government-issued ID with photo hopefully they didn't take that proof of your address. So this might be a utility bill or rental agreement, anything like that. And the FTC is a memo to law enforcement. This memo explains to police how ID theft ports are important to victims. You will complete a report about the theft and asked to have a copy or the number of the report.
Review Your Credit Reports
If there are errors or things on your credit report that you did not do. You're going to have to dispute them. When you find mistakes, you're going to send letters explaining the mistakes to the three credit reporting agencies, the fraud department of each business that reported the transaction to your account.
If your credit is stolen, if your ID is stolen, it's going to be a hassle. So what I do recommend that you do is get yourself some ID theft protection.
Mentioned in This Episode:
This post of Retirement and Retirement Lifestyle first appeared on http://RockYourRetirement.com
Kathe Kline has been working with retirees for over 25 years. She discovered that retirement is not just about money and insurance, but is also about: Social & Family; Adventure & Travel; Volunteer & Philanthropy; Spirit & Soul, Sexual issues, and Sandwich Generation issues or helping your Family members as they age
This site will host the podcast interviews that we will do with people who are Rocking their own Retirement, or who provide services to you so that you can Rock Your Retirement!