People in Louisiana are being warned to be extra vigilant as scam callers are likely to ramp up their activity over the next few weeks to take advantage of increasing amounts of people being at home due to the current Coronavirus outbreak.
Scammers wasted no time in taking advantage of the United States Treasury Department's announcement that it could soon start issuing relief checks to American families as soon as next month, to offset lost income from the coronavirus. The Better Business Bureau is already getting reports on BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) about government imposters calling about the checks.
The BBB warns to beware of messages and social media posts claiming to be from the government about special COVID-19 grant. That link may send you to what seems to be an official government website and will ask you to enter your personal information and/or banking details.
Tips to Spot a COVID-19 Grant Scam:
- Remember: Government agencies do not communicate through social media avenues like Facebook. And be aware of unsolicited message.
- Do NOT pay any money for a ‘free’ government grant: If you have to pay money to claim a ‘free’ grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is Grants.gov.
- Do your research: See if that government agency or organization actually exists. Find their contact info and call them to make sure it’s legitimate.
CPR Call Blocker compiled the top five active scams that people in Louisiana should watch out for over the next few weeks as the Coronavirus situation unfolds:
- Fake test kits scam – someone may call claiming to offer free Coronavirus testing kits and will ask you for your personal information and health insurance details. A common version of this scam targets diabetic individuals that are higher risk, where a scam caller will offer both a free Coronavirus test kit and a free diabetic monitor.
- FDIC scam – scam-callers posing as employees from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation will ask you for sensitive information, such as your social security number and bank account information, over the phone as a precondition to receive federal money. Remember the FDIC would never make unsolicited phone calls asking for personal information and money, and especially would not put pressure on you or threaten you.
- Charity scam – you may get a call from someone claiming to be from a charitable organization which is collecting donations for individuals, groups or areas affected by Coronavirus. The caller will ask you to send cash donations in the mail, by wire transfer or by gift card.
- Healthcare provider scam – scam-callers pretending to work for a healthcare provider will tell you that a relative or friend has been treated for Coronavirus, and then demand immediate payment for treatment before threatening legal action if you don’t pay. Healthcare providers would not contact you this way.
- Student loan scams – you receive a call to tell you that new measures due to the Coronavirus outbreak will affect your student loan and that you need to ring a different phone number to find out how the new measures will impact your future payment obligations. If you ring this number, a scammer may ask you for personal information like your social security number and credit card details.
“As more and more restrictions are put into place in the US, we predict that scammers are going to take advantage of more people being at home and, with many of those people also being distracted or stressed about the Coronavirus situation, this could be a recipe for disaster. When we’re feeling vulnerable or distracted, it can be too easy to say “yes” to something without checking first whether it’s genuine," Chelsea Davies from CPR Call Blocker said.
“We’re warning people in Louisiana to bear this in mind and we would always strongly recommend never giving your bank details or paying for something over the phone that you’re unsure of. Especially if the call you receive is the first time you have heard of any payment that needs to be made.”
Here's how to stop receiving scam and nuisance calls:
- Register with the National Do Not Call Registry – visit DoNotCall.gov.
- Don’t consent to being contacted – get your phone number taken off directories and look out for tick boxed on all marketing correspondence to see if ticking or unticking them will prevent your details being passed on to third parties.
- Consider getting a call blocker.
If you think you may be receiving scam calls, here are a few ways to protect yourself:
- Don't reveal personal details. Never give out personal or financial information such as your bank account details or PIN – even if the caller claims to be from your bank.
- Hang up. If you feel harassed or intimidated, end the call. You have the right not to feel pressurized.
- Ring the organization. If you’re unsure whether the caller is genuine, you can always ring the company they claim to be from. Make sure you find the number yourself and don't use one provided by the caller.
- Don't be rushed. Scammers will try to rush you into providing personal details. They may say they have a time-limited offer or claim your bank account is at risk if you don't give them the information they need right away.