Beware of COVID Scams
August 6, 2020
Editor’s note: Patrick Winn, director of Catholic Charities, compiled this information for The Observer.
ROCKFORD—Anyone can be at risk of being taken advantage of by a scam and scammers are now using fears driven by the COVID-19 pandemic in efforts to take money from senior citizens. 
At present, senior citizens are an easy target due to the rapidly changing news about COVID-19, heightened isolation due to visitation restrictions, possible vulnerabilities associated with various stages of cognitive decline, and accumulated financial means. 
Scammers use a variety of techniques to make connections with possible targets: creating malware to infect electronic devices, employing pressure sales tactics in door-to-door visits, impersonating reputable businesses and charitable organizations, phishing for personal information via emails and text messages, posting clickbait messages on social media platforms, setting up fake Internet sites, spoofing to disguise caller IDs on robocalls, etc. 
Everyone needs to be on the lookout for scams and take prompt action to make reports to the appropriate authorities so the extent of harm can be minimized for the victim and a stop put to the scheme in efforts to protect others.
Here are some COVID-19 scams to look out for.
Health Care Scam
COVID-19 health products and related services
At present, there are no vaccines or other prescription and over-the-counter drugs that have been tested and approved as a cure for COVID-19. 
Also, careful review of product claims is necessary to determine the effectiveness of disinfecting, purifying, and sterilizing devices. 
Moreover, there is no scientific support for claims that services such as in-home HVAC cleaning will provide any protection against COVID-19.
Lastly, some scammers continue to hype fears about shortages to drive up purchases on overpriced items with excessive shipping fees and then failing to complete delivery.
Note that the claim “Kills SARS-CoV-2” may be true when a device has been tested against the coronavirus SARS-CoV-2. However, the claim “Kills COVID-19” is considered false and misleading because COVID-19 is a reference to a disease and this disease as such cannot be killed. 
Charity Scam
Fake charitable organizations
Scammers are often able to make pitches for donations before legitimate charitable organizations can mobilize resources in response to a new crisis. 
Before making any donations, visit official websites to verify that the organization is reputable, and that money is going to the right place. 
Donations should not be made in cash, using gift cards, or by wire transfers.
People who get a request for donations, gift cards, cash or wire transfers that appear to come from their parish or pastor should call their parish to check on it. Any suspected scam should be reported to the parish and then they can let the diocese know if needed.
Testing Scam
Home test kits for COVID-19
Scammers are posing as officials from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and asking senior citizens to verify personal identification information, including addresses, Medicare ID numbers, Social Security numbers, and banking or credit card information. 
Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the latest local information about testing is posted on the website of each state’s health department and testing should be conducted by a health care provider or through approved community-based and mobile testing sites. 
Government Scam 
Impersonating government officials 
Several government agencies, including the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Federal Communications Commission, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Federal Trade Commission, the Internal Revenue Service, the Social Security Administration, and the World Health
Organization, have warned the public about calls and emails from scammers. 
On the calls, scammers request personal information or payment to resolve false enforcement issues with public benefits, and in the email, scammers have posted links that direct users to counterfeit websites with malware that searches for this information on personal computers. 
Government agencies do not ask for personal information or payments via phone, text, or email. 


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