COVID-19 Pandemic Causes Scams Surge—Protect Yourself

Published

May 1, 2021

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COVID-19, Scams, Identity theft

If it feels like you’re inundated with scam calls, texts and emails lately, you’re not alone. The Federal Trade Commission says fraud reports surged during the pandemic. Nationally, the FTC counted more than 2.2 million reports of fraud with people telling the FTC they lost nearly $3.3 billion in 2020.

It seems every time you hear about a new scam warning and take steps to protect yourself, there’s another scam taking its place. So, how does a consumer keep up?

Scams have evolved Scams have become increasingly elaborate. They’re not always easy to spot.

Consumers used to have to watch out for bad grammar, bad spelling or unprofessional looking web design. Now, cybercriminals can easily build official-looking web pages and spoof real companies and people to make their scheme more convincing.

Criminals often follow headlines to promise solutions to real problems like delayed tax refunds or scarce COVID-19 vaccine appointments. Cybercriminals prey upon the fear and uncertainty that the pandemic has brought because they know that people are more vulnerable when they’re afraid. Criminals use psychological tricks to get people to do what they want – creating a false sense of urgency or appealing to someone’s fear of authority or maybe even exploiting someone’s empathy with a sad story.

Before getting caught up, slow down and think. Recognize your own gut feelings and consider other options when you receive an email or text message that includes links or is asking for more information.

For example, instead of clicking on a link in an urgently worded text message about resetting your bank password, take a moment and consider what other options are available rather than clicking the link or responding directly. Merck Employees Federal Credit Union would not text or email requesting you reset your password. Occasionally the credit union will send an email instructing you how to reset your password, but those emails are prompted by you, our member, requesting that assistance.

The best thing you can do is make staying vigilant about cybersecurity a habit.

Easy habits to protect yourself On easy habit is changing your passwords and ensuring they’re different for each account. Hackers may post email address lists and passwords that go with them when they compromise a company. If you reuse a password, you’ve given away access to other accounts too. Some experts recommend maintaining several email addresses in order to keep public, shopping, social media and financial accounts separate.

When it comes to the security questions you use to recover your username or password - pick a lie you’ll remember. For the question, “What is your favorite color? Use an answer that’s not a color, perhaps “flamingo” or “explorer”.

Recognize what scammers want There’s still a lot you can do by simply using common sense—but you do need to be more skeptical.

No matter the scheme, recognize the criminal wants something from you: most likely money.

You can research information about the person or company you are interacting with. If you do so, don’t go to the website they send you to and don’t call the number they provide.

If you are victim of the scam, don’t be ashamed, here are some steps you can take. The FTC says it’s important to act fast.

The FTC also wants to hear about scams even if you didn’t lose any money. Following the see something, say something motto is best in these situations as well. To report a scam you are aware of click here.


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New Fraud Reporting Platform for Consumers: ReportFraud.ftc.gov

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