Scams increase as fraudsters become techno-savvy during the COVID pandemic

In 2019, there was already a significant increase in fraud complaints, and then in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic started.

Fraudsters are always ready to capitalize on any loophole they come across, and they also took advantage of the unusual coronavirus. For instance, on Monday, Letitia James, New York State Attorney General, issued a warning about fraudsters alleging they can deliver COVID-19 vaccines early if you submit your Social Security or credit card number or banking data.

Frauds that use phone calls, fake sites, email, and other virtual methods have increased in the last few years as individuals advance to e-commerce. It seems that the pandemic motivated that trend.

‘People go online to buy. Crooks enjoy taking advantage of weaknesses,’ stated Credit Card Insider’s credit industry specialist, Mason Miranda. This firm is an instructional website that lobbies for consumers, offering credit cards advice. Fraudsters have various methods, which change with the technology, said Miranda.

They pretend to be a genuine agency and essentially attempt to access any of your private data,’ remarked Miranda. The newest phone fraud relates to a Robo-caller purporting to be from the Social Security Administration.

Beaver Dam Lake’s Jm Loniak obtained a couple of fraud calls from Social Security in one day at the beginning of this month. One was from the 718 area code that he did not pick, and the other one spoofed a local business number. Loniak stated he took the second call, which was from a woman. She informed him that in Southern Texas, his Social Security number had been subjected to fraudulent acts. To talk to the ‘officer’ he pressed ‘I’ and the person calling started talking endlessly.

According to Loniak, he informed the man that he was aware it was a fraud and advised the man to get a legitimate manner of earning a living instead of engaging in fraud.

Loniak, aged 70, stated that he had also received fraudulent IRS calls, issuing threats about arresting him for allegedly having an unpaid bill. 

’They attempt all manner of things to get money from you,’ he claimed.

Shopping frauds in Social Media

The FTC indicates that social media frauds have especially increased. In 2019, complaints reaching the FTC showed that consumers lost $134 million to scams through social media and during the 2020 first six months, the number had already gone up to $117 million.

‘We make ourselves susceptible to many of these factors by opening up too much to our friends, relatives and strangers on Facebook,’ said Loniak. ‘There’s significant secret activity to access your information.’

Mainly, a social media fraud victim pressed on an Instagram or Facebook ad to purchase something but did not receive the product says the FTC. Miranda suggested that if you come across an advertised product that you want, look for the firm’s official site using a search engine. Avoid clicking on the ad as fraudsters usually ‘replicate’ trader websites to con customers.

Daring phone callers

At times, all it involves is an intense-pressure pitch.

Newburgh’s Genie Abrams, a writer and former member of Newburgh City Council received a call from a telemarketer looking for contributions for a police organization that she was not familiar with, appreciating her for ‘earlier support’ and requesting for a contribution of $50 each month ‘to assist our police.’

‘Laughing, I informed him my taxes cater for  police income, so I was already supporting them,’ remembered Abrams.

‘I told the person, ‘What is your union’s stand? It should assist you.’ He lacked a response for that. He continued with the story.

He evaded other basic queries that any genuine charitable non-profit would answer; what amount of the contributions go to the organization and whether they send a yearly report dictating how the organization uses donor funds.

She disconnected the call on him.

The organization asking Abrams for money is a non-profit. However,  it is not a charitable organization, but a political advocacy group, and contributions are not taxed. It seems updated on the IRS tax filings requirements. It indicates that most of the money is used to pay the telemarketing company.

Fraud methods

There are different kinds of frauds, but some methods are similar, says the FTC.

–  IRS and Social Security frauds attempt to instill fear in the victim so they can reveal their banking and personal identification information.

–  ‘Phishing’ frauds through email or text attempt to con individuals into providing private data.

–  False check scams request you to deposit a check and refund part of the cash, putting you in a fix when the bank realizes the check is bogus

According to Miranda, fraudsters who initially counted on people sending cash have begun imploring or insisting that individuals use gift cards to pay (no state agency would do this), and reveal the digits behind the cards. After this, they drain the accounts.

Local utility firms were forced to issue warnings after a similar fraud recently.

As expected, physical retail and gas stations also present risks. Skimmers that read the credit cards’ magnetic strip and the latest ’shimmers’ that capture chip data can steal debit or credit card data as people shop.

Miranda advises getting a credit card that’s ‘tap and go’ or changing to ‘contactless’ payment techniques: mobile wallet services like Google Pay or Apple Pay, or digital wallet services like Venmo or PayPal. They use temporary IDs or tokens to conceal your account data and shield the information from crooks.

‘This method is very effective and simple for protecting your credit card data,’ he stated.

‘However, monitoring your credit card and banking accounts, and remaining enlightened about frauds and taking care, is the most effective defense,’ said Miranda.

’Sadly, a significant number of people are not aware of what is going on,’ he said,

Tips from the Federal Trade Commission 

Warnings signs that a fraud is looming:

Purporting to be from an agency or organization, you know:

Suppose there is a prize or an issue;

They push you to take immediate action and might threaten to arrest you or other repercussions.

They insist you use a particular payment method (money transfer, gift cards, etc.).

Adhere to these suggestions to shield yourself from fraudsters.

Avoid revealing your private or financial data to a surprise request.

Do not press on links in emails. Rather, check the agency’s or company’s website or look for their telephone number.

Before purchasing an item from a social media ad, type the firm’s name in a search engine, together with ‘complaints’ or ’scam’ to check whether others have experienced issues.

If a ‘friend’ from social medial sends you a message about financial relief, call to ensure their account was not hacked.’

If you get an offer to make money, before acting, check ftc.gov/mlm to find out whether it represents a multi-level marketing scheme.

To restrict what you provide to the public, check the privacy settings of your social media.

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