As many of us are practicing social distancing by staying home, we may be more likely to answer unsolicited phone calls. That’s what the scammers are betting on. Using illegal robocalls, scammers prey on consumers’ fears of the virus and financial uncertainty to perpetrate scams and distribute misinformation. Scammers are using their old tricks with a coronavirus twist. Pinellas County Consumer Protection wants you to be aware of these latest robocall scams.
The message claims to be from the Social Security Administration notifying you that your social security benefits are being suspended immediately due to suspicious behavior. Or from the IRS to set-up direct deposit to expedite your stimulus payment. In both scenarios, the purpose is to steal your personal/financial information and money.
Don’t worry if you missed the call, they’re likely to leave you a message that they are calling from the “coronavirus hotline.” There’s no such thing! The message states, “because of limited testing, we are first taking Medicare member” Like all scams, they’re seeking your personal/financial information, including your Medicare information to bill fraudulent charges.
Small Business Scam:
Businesses are not immune from scams. This latest scheme targets businesses in an attempt to cash-in on the pandemic. The recording asks, “if you’re a small business affected by the coronavirus, press 1…” It may even offer additional selections, press this number to speak to a live operator or that number to opt out of future calls. Don’t press any number, just hang up!
In addition, beware of robocalls selling coronavirus test kits, claiming to have cures and treatments for the virus, offering discount health insurance or Medicare supplement plans or simply seeking donations to help the victims of the pandemic.
Here are a few tips to help reduce robocalls:
- If you don’t recognize the number, don’t answer.
- Consider using a call blocking apps or devices to reduce robocalls.
- Report robocalls to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.ftc.gov/complaint
For information from the Federal Trade Commission on COVID-19 robocall scam, visit: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/socially-distancing-covid-19-robocall-scams. For more information on scams visit www.pinellascounty.org/consumer.