December 28, 2020
Categories: Education, Protecting Your Accounts, Safety & Security, Scams & Fraud, Tips
Stay Aware to Avoid Financial Scams
Vaccine Scams Among Those That Are Frequent
In the past few weeks, scams relating to the coronavirus vaccine have been increasing. Car-buying and romance scams are prevalent as well, and unemployment scams continue to be common. Being aware is the best way to avoid being tricked by scammers. Below are descriptions of recent vaccine, car-buying and romance scams and how to spot them.
As the coronavirus vaccine starts to be distributed, scammers are taking advantage of people’s desire to get back to their pre-COVID lives. Beware of solicitations for the vaccine or services related to it such as early access.
What to look for
Here are some signs of a vaccine scam:
- Anyone asking you to pay upfront to get the vaccine or to pay to put your name on vaccine waiting list or to get early access. Anyone offering to ship doses of the vaccine to you for payment.
- Requests for your medical and/or personal information.
- Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online or from unknown sources.
What to do
Cut off contact with the scammer. Delete any solicitations or hang up. Don’t give our personal information and avoid clicking links from anyone you don’t know. Consider reporting the scam to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
Dating apps and social sites provide a great venue for scammers. More people have been staying home the past few months, so there is no shortage of people who feel isolated and lonely–and vulnerable to exploitation.
Victims meet scammers online and are unknowingly groomed to trust them. Sometimes, the victims can have a relationship with a scammer for years and even consider themselves engaged. They can’t believe it when a scam occurs.
What to look for
These are common examples of techniques scammers use in romance scams:
- The scammer pretends to live outside the United States, perhaps working on an oil rig, in the military or as a doctor in an international organization.
- The scammer asks the victim for money, possibly paid through wire transfers or payments through services such as Paypal or Venmo.
- Scammers may also ask for plane tickets or help paying off a debt, customs fees, medical expenses, official documents or virtually anything else. They may ask for gift cards.
What to do
Be suspicious and never send money, gift cards or merchandise to someone you’ve never met in person. Never give anyone personal information such as your social security number and account information. Immediately stop communication with the scammer.
For more about romance scams, click here.
With more people shopping online for cars these days, more car scams are happening, too. Scammers typically advertise cars (that they might not even have) for what seems to be a great deal. The scammer gains the victim’s trust by chatting about the car and answering questions. Sometimes, an invoice is sent to the victim with a phone number that connects back to the scammer.
What to Look for
- Often, the scammer claims that the car’s incredible price is due to an urgent situation. The scammer may pretend he or she is being deployed by the military, has received the car in a divorce settlement or inherited it from a deceased relative.
- Scammers will often pressure a victim to purchase the car quickly, requesting payments to Paypal, Venmo or similar accounts, wire transfers or payment in gift cards or cryptocurrency.
- Additional funds are sometimes requested after the “sale” for things like transportation or shipping costs.
What to do
Don’t purchase anything sight-unseen, and never send funds upfront. Beware of payments to reserve the car or to pay for its transportation.
Be suspicious of sellers that aren’t reputable dealers. Sites like Craigslist don’t have buyer protections, and scammers know this. Research the vehicle identification number (VIN), license number and to whom the car is registered. If something is fishy or doesn’t make sense, end contact immediately.
Don’t believe the photos. They could be pictures of someone else’s car, photos taken from the internet, or the car in the pictures might look great but is actually a lemon. See the car in person and get it checked by a mechanic before you purchase.
Read additional information about avoiding coronavirus scams here.
To read about unemployment scams and how to spot them, click here.
For more tips on recognizing scams and fraud, visit The Summit’s Fraud Prevention Center.
Cynthia Kolko, The Summit Federal Credit Union