With the onset of the coronavirus, scams are on the rise, and more people are becoming victims. In fact, according to Business Insider, "Americans have lost nearly $12 million this year to scammers and bad actors capitalizing on the coronavirus pandemic, and the numbers show that figure could grow by tens of millions of dollars before the outbreak has been controlled". The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has made it a priority to warn people and provide tips. So what are the scams businesses should be on the lookout for?
Public Health Scams
Scammers are sending messages they claim to be from the CDC, WHO, or other public health organizations to obtain people's Social Security numbers, tax IDs, and additional personal information. These messages can be in the form of texts or even emails. Employers need to remind their staff to never click on any links or download files from unknown sources. Instead, they should contact their IT department to determine whether or not the source is safe.
Unemployment scams are another problem businesses and organizations are dealing with amid the COVID-19 pandemic. And unfortunately, Michigan businesses are seeing a rise in these fraudulent claims. "There is a rise in unlawful unemployment claims across the nation, and unfortunately, criminals are taking advantage of this global pandemic," said Steve Gray, Michigan's UIA director. "Michiganders who suspect an imposter claim has been filed in their name should contact the UIA immediately." If you're an employer and suspect a scammer is attempting to file an unemployment claim, you should call the UIA customer service hotline.
As you know, the government has been providing financial help to businesses and individuals affected by this pandemic. An important thing to note is that the government will never ask you to make an up-front payment or provide any personal information via email or phone. Only scammers will ask people to pay to get their government aid. Here are four tips from the FTC for avoiding a coronavirus stimulus payment scam:
- Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never respond to a call, text, or email.
- The IRS won't contact you by phone, email, text message, or social media with information about your stimulus payment, or ask you for your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number. Anyone who does is a scammer phishing for your information.
- You don't have to pay to get your stimulus money.
- The IRS won't tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That's a fake check scam.
If you spot one of these scams, please tell the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
These are just like the business email scams mentioned above, where the "CEO" emails their employees directing them to disclose personal information, transfer funds, or wire money. Still, this time the message comes from a member of the IT department. In the message, instead of asking for money, they ask for passwords or direct the employee to download a file or install software on their computer. With staff working remotely and adjusting to new technology and procedures, scammers are taking advantage of this situation. Again, all of your employees should be aware of any changes in software or procedures directly from you or someone in management.
If you are making online orders for supplies, make sure that the website you are using is real. Scammers are known for creating fake websites that fake taking orders, get a hold of your credit card numbers, and never actually ship the supplies. A good way of ensuring a website is legit is by reading reviews, asking colleagues, or even calling them and asking questions a legit business would be able to answer.
Many people have been looking for remote work since the pandemic hit.
Scammers have taken advantage of this situation by posting phony remote-jobs, promising good pay, benefits, and sometimes they even mention that no interview is required. What's more, they are even using real company names! This could be your company they are impersonating. During these times, people are desperate and may not recognize red flags, which is why the Better Business Bureau has some tips for those seeking jobs online:
- If a potential employer says, they have a position open for you for a fee. You should also be wary of fake job ads.
- If you're looking at government jobs, don't believe ads for previously undisclosed positions.
- Never give out your personal information to a potential employer unless you've been officially hired.
If you or someone you know falls victim to an employment scam, they should contact the Social Security Administration and their bank to see if their information has been compromised. You can also report it to the FTC, BBB, or DCCA.
For guidance on getting support, avoiding scams, and following appropriate practices in the marketplace, check out the FTC's website and our own COVID-19 Resource Center.
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