Scammers continuing to use variety of methods tied to coronavirus that specifically target older adults
New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) reminds New Yorkers of all ages to stay aware of scams surrounding the novel coronavirus. Scams have become even more sophisticated in recent years, and although COVID-19 cases are currently on the decline across the state, scammers continue to seek to take advantage of uncertainty surrounding the virus.
“The impact of social distancing has resulted in a rise in scams that prey on vulnerable individuals, particularly socially isolated older adults,” NYSOFA Acting Director Greg Olsen said. “As scammers become increasingly more inventive, I urge all New Yorkers to be on the lookout and report any and all suspicious activity immediately to help protect other New Yorkers from falling prey.”
NYSOFA said, “It is well known that social isolation disproportionately affects older adults. While social distancing was put in place to slow the spread of COVID-19, it also has had the unintended effect of heightening the risk of social isolation and loneliness even more, ultimately leaving people more vulnerable to scams and financial exploitation.”
Phishing and supply scams – Scammers impersonate health organizations and businesses to gather personal and financial information or sell fake test kits, supplies, vaccines or cures for COVID-19.
Contact tracing scams – Scammers pretend to be COVID contact tracers and trick people into providing personal information. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for personal information like Social Security or financial information.
Economic relief scams –The government will not ask for a fee to receive any funds, nor will they ask for your personal or account information.
Government grant scams – Scammers are taking advantage of homeowners by making bogus offers to secure generous grants for home repairs.
Charity scams – Scammers seek donations for illegitimate or nonexistent organizations.
Delivery of malware – Often through “virus-tracking apps” or sensationalized news reports to gain access to all your information.
Provider scams – Scammers impersonate doctors and hospital staff, claim to have treated a relative or friend of the intended victim for COVID-19, and demand payment for treatment.
Bank/FDIC scams – Scammers impersonate FDIC or bank employees and falsely claim that banks are limiting access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits.
Investment scams disguised as “research reports” – Scammers claim that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19.
Shopping scams – Many new shopping scams are related to safety products and hard-to-find household goods. Scammers sell emergency preparedness materials, but never deliver the promised goods.
With the increase in online shopping due to social distancing, there has been an increase in scammers calling people claiming they need to discuss fraudulent charges.
Association on Aging in New York Executive Director Becky Preve said, “New Yorkers need to remain vigilant against scams that target older individuals and caregivers during this pandemic. Perpetrators are using the opportunity now more than ever to exploit our most vulnerable population, and the guidance provided is an excellent resource to provide education and protection.”
New Yorkers can follow these best practices to keep their money and information safe:
√ Do not open emails or respond to texts from people or companies you do not know.
√ Never click on links or attachments in an email or a text you do not 100% trust.
√ If you receive an email or a text from your bank or retailer that makes you feel skeptical, call the customer service number on their official website.
√ If you receive a phone call from anyone attempting to verify account information, be wary. Government agencies will never request this information over the telephone, and most businesses would never call or email you to ask for your security credentials.
√ When shopping online, only purchase from sites that begin with “HTTPS”, which means the site is considered secure.
√ Watch for spelling errors on websites – many scams originate in foreign countries.
What to Do if You Have Been Scammed
Report it. Reporting scams to law enforcement is important to help establish accurate statistics on how many people have been affected, which determines how many resources the FBI and other law enforcement will devote to breaking up fraud rings.
About the New York State Office for the Aging and Health Across All Policies/Age-Friendly New York
The New York State Office for the Aging (NYSOFA) continuously works to help the state’s 4.3 million older adults be as independent as possible for as long as possible through advocacy, development and delivery of person-centered, consumer-oriented and cost-effective policies, programs and services that support and empower older adults and their families, in partnership with the network of public and private organizations that serve them.
New York is nationally recognized for being the first age-friendly state in the nation. Using the state’s prevention agenda as the overarching framework, in 2017, Gov. Andrew Cuomo launched a “Health Across All Policies” approach, where public and private partners work together to positively impact population health by marrying health care, preventive health, and community design, in concert with addressing social determinants of health, to improve the lives of all New Yorkers, young and old.