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Beware These Pandemic-Related Scams in 2021
Fraudsters continue to leverage the pandemic in an attempt to scam unsuspecting victims, so here are some things you should know to help protect yourself.
Since the onset of the pandemic, criminals have used tactics like identity theft and social engineering to defraud government and healthcare programs and illegally cash in—and the new year has brought some new material for them to keep up their scams.
COVID-19 vaccines. New PPP loans. Expanded government assistance. All are positive developments toward addressing the pandemic’s impact, but they also afford opportunities for criminals to fraudulently exploit.
The Threats Continue
On December 21, federal agencies alerted the public regarding the high potential for fraud during the pandemic, especially now that a vaccine is available. Meanwhile, fraudsters are continuing their global phishing and spoofing campaigns, baiting victims with bogus promises of COVID-19 testing, grants, and prescription cards in exchange for personally identifiable information (PII).
Beware These Scams
- Recorded phone calls (“Robocalls”) offering the chance to avoid lines and get vaccinated sooner for a set price (e.g., $79.99).
- Advertisements and price gouging for the sale of fake or potentially dangerous (and unapproved, illegitimate) COVID-19 “medicine” or treatments.
- Solicitations, whether in person or via text, email, or phone, asking you to provide account information (financial or medical), click an unfamiliar or unexpected link, or visit an unfamiliar webpage in order to “sign up” for treatment.
- Bogus “contact tracers” who reach out to unsuspecting victims and ask for PII (e.g., Medicare number or financial information) or attempt to collect payment for scheduling a test. Legitimate contact tracers don’t need such information or payment.
Tips to Note
According to the AARP, the key points federal officials want the public to understand when it comes to preventing such scams are:
- Go to a trusted source for vaccine information (e.g., your doctor or local health department).
- Don’t buy a vaccine or treatment off the Internet.
- The vaccine is provided at no cost, although providers may charge a fee for administration (that can be reimbursed).
- Ignore any solicitations about the vaccine that are delivered to you via text message, social media, phone call, email, or in person, because health officials are not contacting eligible people using these methods.
- Don’t give money or any type of PII to an unexpected or unfamiliar party contacting you about COVID-19, because fraudsters can use such information to defraud healthcare organization and commit identity theft.
For additional information regarding the COVID-19 response and updated vaccine distribution details, visit trusted sites like CDC.gov and the FDA vaccine web page periodically—and exercise caution regarding unexpected or unfamiliar communications on the topic.
If You See Something, Say Something
Fraudsters are adapting fast, and even a tiny bit of fraud can quickly become a scam epidemic. Try to stay ahead of the fraud game and always keep a healthy skepticism; even regarding an unexpected opportunity for COVID-19 treatment, as it’s often said, “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”
Contact your local law enforcement agencies if you think you’ve received fraudulent communication regarding COVID-19 treatment. If you suspect that your Umpqua Bank account has been compromised, contact our Customer Resource Center at (866) 486-7782 as soon as possible for assistance.