How to Avoid Financial Scams During COVID-19

Scammers are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to con people into giving up their money and personal information. Though the phone script is new, the strategies are familiar. In addition to taking preventive measures towards your health and finances, it is important to educate yourself on the techniques scammers are using during the COVID-19 pandemic. When you know the tell-tale signs of a scam, you can prevent yourself from ending up in an unexpected financial situation.

If you think you might have given your personal information to a scammer, it is best to consult with a debt settlement lawyer to ensure your finances and credit history are not affected. Here are some coronavirus scams to be aware of.

Stimulus Check Scams

Before coronavirus, it was common for scammers to call people pretending to be the IRS. In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are using federal relief checks to bait people into providing personal information.

Disguised as a government official, a scammer will call you and assert that in order to receive your stimulus check, you must answer a series of questions. These questions typically require the recipient to provide personal information about their bank account, social security number, and address. In order to protect yourself, it is important to educate yourself on the measures the IRS is taking to distribute stimulus checks. Here is some important information to know about stimulus check distribution and the IRS:

  • Americans do not need to sign up to receive their federal stimulus check.
  • The government is distributing checks based on your 2018 or 2019 federal tax returns.
  • The IRS does not initiate any contact by email or phone.

For accurate information about federal stimulus checks and when you can expect yours, visit the IRS’s coronavirus resources page.

Student Loan Scams

Around 45 million Americans are plagued by student loans. The accumulated student loan debt is over $1.6 trillion, and about 5 million people are in default. In the current atmosphere of financial uncertainty, it’s no surprise that scammers have pivoted to target this financially vulnerable population. Scammers are calling with an enticing offer: instant student loan relief.

During the pandemic, there have been many reports of scammers offering deals to forgive student loan debt in its entirety and refinance or suspend payment plans—for a fee. The allure of this offer has caused many Americans’ bank account information to end up in the wrong hands. Here is what you need to know about student loans:

  • There is no such thing as instant student loan relief.
  • Since the start of the pandemic, all federally backed loans have set their interest rates to 0% and have suspended payments.
  • There is usually no fee when getting help from a loan servicer.

Social Security Scams

Due to concerns surrounding COVID-19, the Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are currently closed to the public. However, the SSA will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. In response to SSA offices being closed, scammers are misleading people into thinking they must pay over the phone to maintain their regular benefits. In some situations, the SSA may call you, but they will never do the following:

  • Suspend your Social Security number
  • Demand immediate payment from you
  • Ask for you to pay by cash, wire transfer, or gift card

Fraudulent Charity Scams

Charities are on the front lines of natural disasters, public health crises, and human rights issues. They work hard to provide food, housing, and essential supplies to people in need. Unfortunately, fraudulent charities can pop up too. During COVID-19, many scammers are posing as charity workers. They are using names that sound similar to prominent charities and have created fake emails and phone numbers that appear legitimate but are fake. Strategies to protect yourself from fake charities include:

  • Donate to charities you’ve donated to before
  • Use third-party websites to check charity credentials
  • Check the websites and phone numbers of alleged charities to ensure validity

Consult With a Debt Settlement Lawyer

When scammers get ahold of your personal information, it can put you in an unexpected financial situation. Scammers can use your Social Security number and bank information to open credit cards in your name, which can negatively affect your credit. Many creditors won’t work with a non-lawyer debt settlement company. If you suspect you’ve been the victim of a scam, it is best to consult with a debt settlement lawyer to ensure your financial standing is not affected.

At McCarthy Law, we are dedicated to resolving our client’s debt problems. Debt issues are a national problem, and we work across the country to ensure people receive the debt services they deserve. To schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced debt settlement professional, call our office at (855) 976-5777 or fill out our contact form today.

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Joe Panvini

Joe Panvini

Joe received his law degree from the Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law at Arizona State University in 2010. On behalf of consumers, he has successfully briefed and argued complex consumer law issues in both individual and class action lawsuits. Joe is admitted to practice in Arizona and Washington, as well as numerous federal courts across the country, including the Ninth and Eleventh Circuit Courts of Appeals.