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COVID-19 cautions extended

by JASON KAMA
Community Outreach Specialist, BBB Northwest + Pacific | April 13, 2020 1:00 AM

There are reminders everywhere about the need to take physical precautions. Wash your hands for 20 seconds after an interaction, maintain 6 feet of distance from others, and even suggestions to wear a mask when in public.

However, there are also financial and personal security precautions to keep in mind, as well. Older adults are cautioned as “most-at-risk” to the coronavirus — and scammers prey on that. If you or someone you know must stay at home and needs help with errands, you’ll want to know about this latest scam.

Scammers are offering help with errands and running off with your money.

If you’re an older adult or a caregiver for one, you may need help picking up groceries, prescriptions, and other necessary supplies. If someone you don’t know offers to help, be wary. Some scammers offer to buy supplies but never come back with the goods or your money. It’s usually safer to find a trusted friend or neighbor or arrange delivery with a well-known company.

If you’re ordering supplies online, stick to well-known and trusted options. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t. Use an established delivery service, or order directly from the store. Many grocery stores and pharmacies are offering contactless delivery. If you need additional help for yourself or a loved one, the Eldercare Locator (eldercare.acl.gov), a public service of the U.S. Administration on Aging, can connect you to services for older adults and their families. You can also call 1-800-677-1116.

Are you also helping to manage someone’s money?

If you’re helping with basics, you might also be managing money for someone and can’t be with them because of social distancing and quarantines. If so, here are some ideas:

• Check-in by phone or video chat. Stay in touch to know how they’re handling things — and so they know you’re thinking about them.

• Ask questions. If your loved one mentions concerns about money or spotted unusual activity in their accounts, ask for details. Older adults and their family members can learn about common types of scams, as well as how to avoid and report them by checking out the Pass it On and Money Smart for Older Adults programs.

• Financial caregivers: learn more about your responsibilities. The CFPB’s Managing Someone Else’s Money guides can help you understand your role as a fiduciary. Each guide explains your responsibilities and how to spot financial exploitation and avoid scams.

Medicare scams.

Scammers might call to offer things like a “COVID-19 kit,” “Coronavirus package,” or Medicare benefits related to the virus. But they’ll ask you to verify personal information like your bank account, Social Security, or Medicare numbers. If you get a call from someone who says they’re a Medicare representative and they ask for this information, hang up. It’s a scam, not Medicare calling.

Relief payment messages from “government agencies.”

The FTC is getting a lot of reports about fraudulent calls, texts, and emails coming from people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, Census, USCIS, and the FDIC. These fake government messages might say that you are approved for money, can get quick relief payments, or get cash grants due to the coronavirus. Scammers might also promise you small business loans, or send a (phishing) alert that a check is ready to be picked up. These are all scams, and none of those messages come from a government agency.

If you respond to these calls or messages, they might ask you for money, personal information, or both. Don’t give it. And remember that the surest sign of a scam is anyone who asks you to send cash, pay with a gift card, wire money, or pay with cryptocurrency; to protect you financially, the best way to pay for items is always a credit card.

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BBB is here to help you, so if you have any questions or information about scams you have seen, please let us know, and we’d be happy to help! For more information on businesses, scams, and complaints, you can call 208-342-4649 or find us online at www.bbb.org!

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