Beware of Coronavirus Unemployment Scams

Millions of Americans have found themselves out of work as the economy still reels from the impact of COVID-19. A record number of Americans have filed for unemployment insurance in recent weeks. Unfortunately, when there’s bad news – scammers aren’t far behind. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have lost a collective $13.4 million to coronavirus-related fraud, and unemployment scams have contributed their fair share to the loss.

With a high number of individuals filling out claims, along with the overloaded unemployment websites and phone lines – it provides the perfect cover for con artists. In light of the pandemic, the federal government has also waived some regulations of unemployment insurance, including the requirement to actively be seeking work in order to be eligible for benefits. This looser criteria has only made it easier for scammers to pull off their schemes without getting caught.

Here’s what you need to know about circulating unemployment scams:

How the scams play out

An unemployment scam can involve a con artist filing in someone else’s name and then collecting their benefits or claiming to have been employed by a place of business where they have never held a job. The victim will thus be denied their own benefits.

According to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor, these fraudsters can also take the form of a scammer impersonating a government employee and offering to help the victim fill out their application form for unemployment insurance. The victim, seeking assistance with their claim – will willingly comply with the scammer who is only out to get information so they can nab the victim’s benefits. Or worse, the scammer may use this information to steal the victim’s identity.

Other times, while allegedly helping the victim fill out their forms, the scammer will ask the victim to make a payment via credit card to enable them to receive their benefits. Of course, this money will go straight into the scammer’s pocket and the victim’s unemployment claim will never be filed.

In yet another variation of the unemployment scam, fraudsters create bogus websites that look like the federal websites used for claiming benefits. Scammers use sophisticated software to create these sites and lure unsuspecting victims via social media posts or emails. Once the victim is on the site, they willingly share information and assume they are actually filling out their unemployment forms.

Unemployment scams can make a challenging situation all the more difficult by leading to theft, delaying an unemployment claim, or completely disqualifying a victim from receiving unemployment insurance altogether.

How to spot an unemployment scam

As always, arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to protect against an unemployment scam.

  • First, it’s important to note that there is no fee involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance.
  • Second, government officials will never ask you to share personal information over the phone unless a phone appointment was pre-planned and scheduled for a specific date and time. This includes a full Social Security Number, date of birth, employment history and financial information.
  • Finally, sensitive information should never be shared on a site without first verifying its security. Each state will have its own website dedicated to filing and checking unemployment claims, but you should also look for the lock icon next to the site’s URL and for the “s” after the “http” in the web address. It’s also best to visit your state’s unemployment site on your own instead of clicking on an ad or a link that’s embedded in an email.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Society is now looking toward the future while determining the next step in their new reality. Part of the recovery process involves picking up the pieces and putting personal finances in order. Scammers are out to thwart this process, but you can outsmart them. Always stay alert for potential scams, and practice vigilance when sharing sensitive information online or over the phone. Stay safe!

Article Source: CUContent.com

Business Owners: Watch Out for COVID-19 SBA Loan Scams

If you’re a business owner, you may have already applied or are still planning to apply for a loan to assist your business by paying employees through the SBA’s (Small Business Administration) CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. Both programs recently got billions of dollars in new funding. However, while you’re focused on getting a loan – scammers may be hoping to trick you into giving them sensitive business information, like your bank account numbers, employees’ Social Security Numbers, and your money.

Below are some guidelines to prevent you and your business from getting scammed as you apply for a small business loan.

Things to Do:

 Things You Shouldn’t Do:

  • Never pay for information. All the information from the SBA is free at sba.gov/coronavirus.
  • Don’t pay in advance for a government business loan. You will never have to pay anything up front to get an SBA loan.
  • Don’t give your information to anyone who calls, emails, or texts you. The SBA will not call unsolicited to find out information about you or your business, or to ask you to apply for a loan. The SBA will not send you emails or text messages asking for sensitive information. If you get an email or text like this, it’s a scam.
  • Don’t apply for a loan without verifying the lender. Only SBA authorized lenders can provide PPP loans, and the other loans (bridge loans, debt relief loans) that may be available through SBA directly. To find an SBA authorized lender in your area, use this SBA tool.
  • Don’t click on links or reply to emails or text messages from unknown senders. If you click on any links typically sent in these types of communications, you could download malware to your device or be connected to a scammer. Also be on alert for fraudulent calls. If you think your business has been contacted by a scammer, report it at ftc.gov/complaint

To inquire about applying for a PPP Loan for your small Monmouth or Ocean County NJ business, please email our Business Development Department at business@firstffcu.com. First Financial is an SBA approved lender.*

We are here to help our local small businesses during this difficult time!

*Please be advised that due to high volume in regard to requests with PPP Loans, our response time may be delayed. We will get to each inquiry in the order in which it was received.

Article Source: Rosario Mendez of Consumer.FTC.gov

Beware of COVID-19 Cure Scams

As the coronavirus pandemic continues to spread, the race to find a cure has taken on frantic urgency. Pharmaceutical companies and researchers around the world are scrambling to find a way to stop the virus and to immunize people against becoming infected.

Unfortunately, scammers have recognized an opportunity to rob innocent victims of their money while giving them false hope for defeating the virus. The FBI is warning the public of a surge in COVID-19 cure scams, in which criminals are peddling an alleged vaccine or treatment for coronavirus. Scammers are also claiming they can disinfect a home and all surfaces against the lingering virus after a family member was infected.

Here’s all you need to know about these scams.

How the Scams Play Out

There are several variations of coronavirus cure scams, most of which profit off the distress of those who are already infected by COVID-19 and people who are fearful of contracting the virus.

One such scam involved a bogus website (coronavirusmedicalkit.com) allegedly selling a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. The phony site offered visitors a vaccine kit to protect against the coronavirus for just a nominal shipping fee of $4.95. “In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO (World Health Organization) is not distributing any such vaccine,” the Justice Department said about the website.

In another scam, victims received a phone call in which a recorded voice offered to send them a free testing kit for the coronavirus. The victim was to only pay the shipping charges for the testing kit — which, of course was worthless. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released several samples of these calls to raise awareness and alert the public about their circulation.

In yet another scam, fake cleaning agencies advertised about their disinfecting and sanitizing services, claiming they could eradicate the virus from patients’ homes. “For only $79, our highly trained technicians will do a full air duct cleaning and sanitation to make sure that the air you breathe is free of bacteria,” a voice on one of the calls said. Unfortunately, after making a pre-payment for the service – the victim will never hear from the agency again.

How to Spot the Scams

Coronavirus cure scams are fairly easy to spot. With just a bit of awareness and the knowledge of some basic information about COVID-19, you can recognize a scam and keep from being victimized.

First, know that there is currently no approved vaccine or cure for the novel coronavirus. When a vaccine and cure do become available, it will make national headlines and you won’t first hear of it through a robocall. If a company reaches out to you trying to sell you a vaccine or cure, you’re looking at a scam. Hang up and don’t engage further.

Similarly, there are no FDA approved at-home tests for the coronavirus available to the public. If someone tries to sell you one, it is likely a bogus test that won’t tell you if you’re actually infected by the virus or not.

Finally, if you or a member of your family has tested positive for COVID-19 and you’d like to sanitize your home from all traces of the virus, there’s no need to call a cleaning agency. You can do it yourself by following the CDC’s guidelines for disinfecting your home and all surfaces from the virus.

Don’t let fear and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic get your guard down. Arm yourself with the information you need to recognize potential scams, and be aware. Stay safe and Think First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

Article Source: CUContent.com

Tips to Avoid COVID-19 Stimulus Check Scams

As you know, the government will be sending out stimulus checks to aid with the Coronavirus pandemic’s effect on the nation.  As with most things involving money, you’ll often find scammers not too far behind who are looking for a way to take yours. Don’t become a victim!

Here are a few ways to protect your stimulus check from a fraudster:

You don’t need to do anything. As long as you filed taxes for 2018 and/or 2019, the federal government has the information it needs to send your money. If you haven’t filed taxes recently, you’ll need to submit a simple tax return to get your check. Who is eligible to receive a stimulus check? Get more information here.

Don’t give anyone your personal information to get your relief check. There is absolutely nothing to sign up for. Anyone calling to ask for your personal information such as your Social Security Number, PayPal account, or bank information is a scammer. Also be on the lookout for email phishing scams, where the fraudsters pretend to be from the government and ask for your information – stating that it’s part of the enrollment process for the checks.

To set up direct deposit of your check, communicate only with the IRS at irs.gov/coronavirus. You will only need to do this if you didn’t give the IRS your bank information on your 2018 or 2019 tax return. Otherwise, you will receive a check in the mail from the U.S. Treasury. The IRS also has an online form available through irs.gov/coronavirus. This is the only place to legitimately update your information – the IRS will never email, text, contact you through social media, or call you.

There is no early access to this money, and anyone who claims to get it to you earlier is a scammer. It looks like funds will start going out very soon. Scammers are using the lack of detail to try to trick people into giving out their personal information and stealing their money.

You will not be contacted through Facebook and there is no special grant to pay medical bills. Some older individuals reported they were contacted through Facebook about a special grant to pay medical bills called U.S. Emergency Grants Federation, and were asked to provide their SSNs. Some were also told they could receive up to $150,000 when a processing fee is paid. This is a bogus website and grant. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies can be found at www.grants.gov

To get official updates and more information, visit the IRS’s page on economic impact payments. And if you come across a scammer trying to take your check, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.

Article Sources: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/04/want-get-your-coronavirus-relief-check-scammers-do-too?utm_source=govdelivery and CUNA Mutual Risk Alert from 3.31.2020

 

More COVID-19 Scams Including Check Fraud and Medicare Theft

The Federal Trade Commission is taking extra measures to warn people of scammers that will use tactics to try and take your personal information, especially in light of the recent Coronavirus outbreak in this country. It’s important to remain aware of these current scams and schemes in order to protect yourself from fraudsters who are looking to take advantage of your vulnerability, and your money.

In the most current COVID-19 scam – fraudsters are trying to capitalize on the checks the U.S. government might be sending to American taxpayers. These scammers are looking to trap people into giving their information in order to take their money and capture sensitive information such as social security numbers and account information.

To help combat this, we’ve put together a few tips to help you identify fraud in relation to this check scam:

  1. Any money from the government will be in the form of a check and will not be immediate. Anyone who claims this money will be made immediately available is a scammer.
  2. If you have to pay anything upfront before you receive your payment, it is also not legitimate. There are no fees and no hidden charges. Anyone who says otherwise is a scammer.
  3. The government won’t call and ask for your social security number, bank account or credit card information. Anyone who asks for this information is a scammer.

If you receive any communication from someone with the above claims, The Federal Trade Commission urges you to report it through the FTC complaint center. The FTC is also an invaluable resource to stay informed and knowledgeable of current scams and schemes.

Additional scams surrounding Coronavirus to be on the lookout for:

  • Scammers going door to door claiming to be from health agencies such as the CDC or WHO, and offering at home COVID-19 testing. The victim may then be charged for the fictitious test or may become the victim of a robbery. Do not answer the door, pay for the “test,” or let this type of fraudster into your home.
  • Online sellers who contact you and claim they have in-demand products like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. You then place an order, but you never get your shipment. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name — including scammers. Be careful and check for legitimacy.
  • Scammers are targeting the elderly by posing as Medicare workers and in some cases, they might tell you they’ll send you a Coronavirus test, masks, or other items in exchange for your Medicare number, social security number or other personal information. Be wary of unsolicited requests for your Medicare number or other personal information. Only give your Medicare number to participating Medicare pharmacists, primary and specialty care doctors, or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.

Your privacy and protection are important to us. Feel free to reach out to us if you suspect any of your First Financial accounts have been compromised due to one of the above scams.

THINK First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

Article Sources:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/checks-government

March 2020 CUNA Risk Alert