These are challenging times. The COVID-19 pandemic has reshaped many aspects of our lives, including our financial well-being. We’ve discussed in previous blogs and newsletters the approach we advise our clients to take in navigating the financial and investment landscape, but it has come to our attention financial scams have become much more common as the pandemic progresses. This is both unfortunate and ugly; at a time in which so many have lost jobs, taking advantage of our innate urge to help is evil indeed. We would like to take some time to discuss the kinds of scams that you may encounter, how to identify and avoid them, and what you should do if you do encounter one.
How to Identify a Scam
Many scams come in the form of unsolicited texts, emails, or phone calls. We advise some caution here—many cities and counties are using text messaging for emergency communication and thus it’s important to avoid throwing the baby out with the bathwater. In general, you should be suspicious of any unsolicited communication offering you money or soliciting personal information such as your SSN, banking information, or credit card information. Take the time to do some research and confirm the identity of anyone reaching out to you in such a manner.
So what sort of scams might you encounter?
While they come in many forms, there are a number of common approaches you should know about:
- Charity Scams are among the most common and perhaps the most pernicious. You may have already received a message from a charity you don’t recognize, asking for donations to help COVID-19 victims. Before donating, take the time to verify this charity is a legitimate, non-profit organization.
- Social Media Scams come in a number of forms. Some may be charity scams or may ask for personal donations to an individual. Others may simply seek to spread false information and thus create confusion and panic. Instead of relying on social media hearsay, turn to legitimate news and government organizations to confirm the information you’ve received.
- Robocalls are often both ubiquitous and annoying, and the caller may pose as anything from a charity, to an insurance representative, to a government official. In general, we advise against doing business on a cold call; take their name and information and then call the relevant agency directly.
- Similar to robocalls, Phishing Scams may arrive via mail, email, or social media. They’ll attempt to solicit financial or personal information for various criminal purposes. As with robocalls, we advise ignoring them and contacting the relevant agency or company directly.
- Romance Scams are some of the oldest cons going. Scammers, pretending to be someone else, will engage in an online romantic relationship with the target and then solicit them for money. This is becoming especially common during the pandemic as many people are feeling isolated and lonely. Be wary of anyone unknown to you personally who asks you for money online.
Reporting a Scam
Scammers can be hard to catch, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t take action. Fraudsupport.org is a great resource for reporting scams and for information on what to do if you’ve become the victim of a scam. Likewise, contacting your local law enforcement agency can be helpful; they’ll know the next steps to take and can advise you as to how to proceed.
These are challenging times, as we said at the start. Supporting each other via charitable giving and community involvement is both noble and necessary, and we encourage everyone to do so within their means. However, it’s important to protect yourself financially, both by avoiding scams and by planning for your own future. At OmniStar Financial we’re hard at work to ensure our clients meet their goals by illuminating the blind spots, both during the pandemic and beyond.