Beware of telephone and online COVID-19 related scams. The arrival of financial assistance, such as the loan programs and stimulus disbursement associated with the CARES Act, have attracted the attention of scammers. Awareness of the types of scams that exist can help protect you and your family from becoming fraud victims.

The most popular form of transmitting COVID-19 related scams is via e-mail. Known in the trade as “phishing,” these e-mails are sent to gather information, or worse, trick you into unleashing malware on your computer. If you are a small business owner who has applied for the SBA PPP, be on the lookout for suspicious messages. Your bank will be sending you e-mail links that are encrypted, or require you to enter a code to access a secure portal. Avoid responding to e-mails that ask for financial or personal information that are not equipped with these protections. If you have any doubt about the source of an e-mail, don’t click the links. Check with your bank, and have an employee verify if an e-mail was sent to you by the institution.

When making payments over the computer, or providing other sensitive information, double check to make sure the site has a lock icon displayed next to the URL. This indicates that the site can securely store and transmit your personal information. As you shop, stick with reputable sites and vendors. Now is not a good time to try a new vendor you have never used before.

Fraud is also perpetrated over the phone. The FCC is aware of robocall scams that “feature COVID-19 themed work from home opportunities, student loan repayment plans, and debt consolidation offers.” Some scams involve calling people to verify personal and bank information to release the funds for the government stimulus checks. Note that the government will never call or text to verify this information. The government will be using information already on file to make the payment. If you have a question about a government program or need help with filing applications, be sure to contact that government agency directly.

How can you keep your information secure from COVID-19 related scams and avoid injury?
Passwords: Make passwords that are long and complex. Be sure to update passwords every two months. Do not use the same passwords for every site you visit.

Update your Cyber Security: Be sure that your malware detection and antivirus software are up to date. If your software is set to expire soon, update your equipment as quickly as possible, so that you do not have any exposure to cyber threats.

Wi-Fi: Don’t do any personal transactions such as banking, filing government applications (for social security, etc.), or shopping on public Wi-Fi. You are more at risk for information to be stolen. Only use private wireless networks at home, or a personal hotspot. If you are using Zoom regularly, make sure that meetings are private and password protected.

If you believe that you are a victim of fraud, be sure to contact your local police department, the FBI and FCC.

During these difficult times, Graham & Mauer, P.C. attorneys are working remotely to serve the needs of current and future clients. If you have been injured in an accident, call us immediately. An experienced attorney will assist you with the next steps to take in the aftermath of an accident.