Physical distancing, but socially connect
By JASON KAMA
Community outreach specialist
Social distancing and isolation are good health practices to reduce the spread of COVID-19, but it may be helping scammers. Research from the Better Business Bureau, along with other organizations, has found that people are more likely to lose money to a scam when they are socially or physically isolated from others and are actively engaging online during uncertain times.
“According to our research, social isolation is a key risk factor for susceptibility to scams, as is financial vulnerability,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust, BBB’s foundation that conducted the research. “Add increased time spent online, and coronavirus concerns, and you have a ‘perfect storm’ for scammers as all three of these factors increase over time.”
As brick-and-mortar businesses close or curtail services, and the financial markets experience a high level of volatility, many of us are left to wonder if we will have a job to provide for our loved ones. As people turn to the internet seeking new or temporary employment, they can be putting themselves at risk of being scammed without even knowing it. BBB ranked employment scams the riskiest scam of 2019, making up 9.3 percent of all scams reported and a median dollar loss of $1,500.
Most recently, BBB’s scam tracker has seen a spike in reports regarding government grant scams. These phony messages have been surfacing on social media, through text messages and over the phone, all claiming that you qualify for a special COVID-19 government relief check. With the news stories about the proposed stimulus plan, you may figure it must be true. Once you click the link, you end up on a website that appears to be official, asking you to enter your personal information and banking details, claiming it’s “necessary to verify your identity and process your grant.”
As always, con artists are continually looking for new ways to take advantage of these trying times. Besides educating yourself and your immediate family, this is a very crucial time to reach out to elderly family and friends who may need companionship and warnings about these types of scams to make sure they are aware and don’t fall for the convincing stories con artists can cook up over the phone. Make sure to keep practicing PHYSICAL distancing, but socially connect to ensure loved ones and neighbors can still call on you for help.
The most important thing to remember trust your gut; if something just doesn’t seem right, it is ok and necessary to take time and investigate yourself. Guard your personal and financial information, and before ever giving it out, ensure you have the utmost confidence it is a reliable organization or cause.
BBB is here to help you, and we are working remotely during this time. 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.
In addition to our regular services, we have set up a landing page to provide business news and resources during the coronavirus pandemic at BBB-businesses.org/covid-19.