Better Business Bureau says watch out for COVID-19 scams

Your Money Matters

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — By now, it’s evident COVID-19 affects your health, but did you know it’s also detrimental to your financial health? That’s because scammers are using the pandemic as an opportunity to target you. The Better Business Bureau is highlighting this and has advice on what to look out for.

First, the good news. The report shows overall reports of robo calls and government imposter scams have dropped in the last few years.

“You think the IRS is calling you. You think the social security administration is calling you. You think maybe you’re getting called for jury duty,” Jessie Schmidt, director of the Better Business Bureau South Dakota, said.

In the end, those scammers just want to steal your information and money. Now, the bad news. Scammers are taking these old scams, re-focusing them on the pandemic, and using that to take advantage of you.

“Any type of scam you’ve ever seen has blown up with some sort of COVID claim,” Schmidt said.

That includes more than 1,700 complaints about calls supposedly from “IRS agents” who claim they can speed up stimulus payments under the CARES Act passed during the pandemic. Scammers get personal information from victims and use it to redirect the money to their own accounts.

“I just think there’s so much uncertainty around COVID, uncertainty around jobs and uncertainty around government regulation. All of those things and uncertainty breeds fear and that’s where the scammers love to open the door and walk right through,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt reminds you the IRS generally contacts you by mail, not by phone. She also says do not give out any personal or financial information to these callers, nor should you send them any money loaded on to gift cards or pre-paid VISA cards.

“There’s no chance you’ll get it back,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt says also look out for texts, emails, or social media notices claiming to be from contact tracers. Contact tracing identifies people who have come in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. Here’s a red flag to help you know what is real and what is a scammer. A real health official may text you to let you know someone will be calling about possible exposure. A scammer’s message will ask you for personal information like your social security number, or send you a link to click on. Don’t give out your information and don’t click the link.

Not only should you pay attention to the health risks of COVID-19, Schmidt says don’t risk your financial and personal livelihoods to scammers.

“Anything you can think, they can wrap it around the scam and you could be ripe to be a victim of that,” Schmidt said.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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