Scammers are doing what they always do—using headlines as opportunities to steal money or sensitive personal information. They will also seek to take advantage of our heightened levels of anxiety—something they refer to as getting targets "under the ether." These criminals are coming out of the woodwork on all sorts of scams because the hard part of their work has been done for them amid our fears of coronavirus. Expect to see a spike in all types of scams. For now, here's what the AARP Fraud Watch Network knows about coronavirus scams so far:
- There is no vaccine, treatment or cure for COVID-19. Ignore product promotions that claim to offer treatment or a cure.
- Scammers are offering coronavirus testing—some even going door to door—in an attempt to steal your health insurance or Medicare information to submit false claims. Never provide your Medicare number to anyone but your own medical professionals.
- Scammers are making phone calls, saying they need your bank account information to deposit your "Trump dollars." Please only follow information on any financial support from a source you trust and that you can validate.
- Scammers are making robocalls to offer air duct replacement to help keep coronavirus out of your home. This is a flat-out scam.
- Be on the lookout for requests for donations to help people affected by the coronavirus. Ask the caller to send information by mail, and to defer any decision to give a donation to a cause until you've researched it. Online options include www.charitynavigator.org and www.give.org.
- Links or texts from sources you don't know could cause a malicious software virus to be downloaded onto your device. Pause to consider the credibility of the source before you click.
- Be suspicious of any emails claiming to be from the CDC or experts saying that have breaking news information about the virus. Emails from local, state or federal government entities will come from an address ending in .gov.
- For the most up-to-date information about coronavirus, visit the CDC at www.cdc.gov. You can find AARP's coronavirus resources at www.aarp.org/coronavirus.
- For info on coronavirus-related scams from the Federal Trade Commission, visit www.ftc.gov/coronavirus.
- Call the AARP Fraud Watch Network Helpline at 877.908.3360 to report a scam or for help if you think you've become a victim of one.
Kathy Stokes is the director of fraud prevention programs at AARP and leads the AARP Fraud Watch Network.