The state Attorney General’s Office (AGO) warns emergency situations like the current COVID-19 pandemic create opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of the vulnerable. In response, the AGO has urged consumers to be aware of the following common scams.
Coronavirus “Cures” and Other Snake Oil Sales
Any products or services that claim to treat, prevent or cure COVID-19. There is currently no medicine that cures COVID-19. However, with vaccines now available residents are encouraged to follow reliable sources regarding updates regarding the availability and distribution of vaccines in their area. Anyone who has been the victim of a snake oil scam or who otherwise has information about products that are falsely touted as coronavirus treatments, tests, or cures should immediately file a complaint at http://oag.ca.gov/report.
Illegal Telemarketers Using Coronavirus as Part of Their Scams
In the event you are contacted by a telemarketer or robocaller who references coronavirus to perpetrate scams designed to steal money or personal information. Do not engage with telemarketers offering treatment, cures, opportunities to work at home, demanding payment to get on waiting lists for testing, vaccinations, or other similar scams.
According to the AGO, many long-standing scams are now also being adapted to take advantage of fears over coronavirus, such as robocalls related to air duct cleaning or health insurance.
Unsolicited Emails Referencing Coronavirus
As with telemarketing, readers should be extremely wary of any unsolicited email providing information about coronavirus, even ones that claim to be from reputable organizations. These are likely to be scams or “phishing” attempts to get you to provide personal information or to infect your device with software viruses.
If you accidentally open an email, delete the email, and do not click on any links or otherwise engage with the sender.
Scams Related to Government Payments
In December 2020, the federal government passed legislation providing a second stimulus payment and a third payment is currently being considered by Congress. Nothing was/or will be required to receive such payments. For most, the stimulus payments are automatically into banks accounts by direct deposit. Others may receive payment by paper check or debit card.
Don’t be fooled by scammers who try to get your money or personal information. Remember that no one from the government will ask for your personal information by phone, email, or text. Do not give out any of the following: your Social Security number, credit card number, bank account number, or other personal information. Anyone who asks for such information is a scammer. Additionally, do not be fooled by scammers who claim that you were overpaid and that you must send them money back by cash, gift card, or any other form of payment.
If you do not receive one of these stimulus payments provided by the federal government to date, the IRS says you can claim missing payments when you file your taxes for 2020.
As noted above, there may be more stimulus payments in the future. You can check the IRS website for updates about stimulus payments.
(Source: California Department of Justice, Office of the Attorney General)