Avoid Increased Scams During COVID-19 Crisis

 
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Due to concerns surrounding the spread of COVID-19, the “new normal” our country and world is facing is anything but normal. While our communities and customers’ lives may have been flipped upside down, Armstrong Bank remains solid, safe, and secure for over 110 years, and we have weathered many storms. We’re here for you; we’re ready to serve you, and we believe we’re truly stronger together.  

However, times of crisis such as this can unfortunately be prime opportunities for cybercriminals to attempt stealing your personal information and resources using phishing attacks or misinformation. The FBI has warned Americans of increased scams and fraud attacks during the COVID-19 crisis. Keep in mind – we will never call, text, or email to ask for your user ID, PIN, password, one-time passcode, etc. Security is always a top priority for us, so read on to learn how to protect yourself.

 

Price Inflation/Gouging

Have you noticed a jump in prices on essential goods such as hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and other coveted cleaning supplies? 

On March 13, 2020, Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter announced that the price gouging statute is in effect. This means that “an increase of more than 10% for the price of goods or services” is not allowed after a state or federal emergency declaration. For more information or to file a complaint, you can contact the AG’s Consumer Protection Unit by phone at (405) 521-2029 or email at consumerprotection@oag.ok.gov.

Arkansas’s price gouging law is also in effect after Governor Hutchinson declared a state of emergency. You can report price gouging here

 

Robocall Scams

Scammers are impersonating legitimate organizations such as The World Health Organization (WHO), Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and more. They may request donations via immediate wire transfer or gift card or ask you to verify or provide sensitive personal information. Here are the current scam alerts from each organization’s website:

  • WHO: “If you are contacted by a person or organization that appears to be WHO, verify their authenticity before responding … The only call for donations WHO has issued is the COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund. Any other appeal for funding or donations that appears to be from WHO is a scam.”
  • CDC: “...members of the general public are receiving calls appearing to originate from CDC through caller ID, or they are receiving scammer voice mail messages saying the caller is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some calls are requesting donations … Federal agencies do not request donations from the general public.”

The Bottom Line: Don’t respond to pressure tactics over the phone. Verify that the call is legitimate by visiting the organization’s website or calling them directly. Real government agencies and non-profit organizations won’t call to ask you for financial or personal information. This includes the IRS--you do not need to provide your bank account information in order to receive your Economic Impact Payment. Learn more on the IRS site here or visit our Stimulus Payment web page for more information.  

 

Fake cures and test kits

According to the FDA’s website, “Because COVID-19 has never been seen in humans before, there are currently no vaccines to prevent or drugs to treat COVID-19 approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) … some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus.”

Read the FDA’s complete warning about Fraudulent Coronavirus Tests, Vaccines and Treatments.

Additionally, the Arkansas AG issued an alert about door-to-door COVID-19 test scams. The Oklahoma AG has also advised residents to ignore fake test kits, vaccines, and cures.

 

Fake charities

Charity scams emerge after all kinds of national disasters, and COVID-19 is no different. In addition to impersonating national and international organizations to solicit donations, scammers may simply make up a local charity and claim they are collecting money to help people impacted by job loss and other effects. 

If you receive unsolicited messages from supposed-charities seeking money, don’t donate right away. The FTC explains that “the surest sign of a scam is anyone who asks you to send cash, pay with a gift card, wire money, or pay with cryptocurrency.” The use of pressure tactics is another red flag. Legitimate charities have websites where you can make an online donation at your own pace. If you do want to give money or supplies to relief efforts, do some research first and choose organizations proactively instead of responding to outside solicitations.

 

Investment Scams

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) issued an Investor Alert on February 4, 2020 (updated April 13, 2020) to warn Americans about investment frauds related to “claims that a company’s products or services will be used to help stop the coronavirus outbreak.” These scams tend to appear online and on social media platforms in the form of “research reports.” Before making any new investments, check the SEC’s list of current Trading Suspensions connected to coronavirus/COVID-19. The Financial Consultants at Armstrong Bank can also help answer your questions.

 

Phishing Scams

The FBI has warned Americans about a rise in fraud schemes related to COVID-19. With phishing emails, scammers are trying to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Be wary of email, text, or social media messages that make an offer or request such as the following:

  • Verify personal or bank account information in order to receive your Economic Impact Statement
  • Make a charitable contribution via wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency
  • Travel refunds
  • General financial relief
  • Other scams mentioned above, such as fake cures, vaccines, or testing kits
  • Links to websites and/or apps that claim to have relevant information about COVID-19

To protect yourself from phishing scams, practice good cyber habits, now and always. Hover your cursor over a link before clicking to review the URL. Contact organizations directly instead of responding to emails. Look for grammar or punctuation errors that signal a lack of professionalism. 

 

Armstrong Bank is here to serve our customers and communities!

We are here for you during this challenging, unprecedented time. Check our coronavirus page for current updates on our response and services. If you have questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to reach out.