Be on the lookout for financial scams! If you have received an unsolicited phone call, when in doubt, hang up. Never provide credit card or other financial or personal information as part of an unsolicited phone call, especially if the caller is pressuring you to act quickly.
Be mindful of various scams related to COVID-19 including:
Advance Fee Loan Scam
In times of need, consumers may shop for various loans to extend their financial flexibility. Scammers may ask you to pay fees upfront for nonexistent loans, and once they receive payment, you never hear from the scammer again. These perpetrators may offer loans over the phone and ask for fees to be wired directly to an individual. The FTC offers additional guidance on this scam.
Foreclosure Bailout Scammers
Some homeowners may be contacted by unscrupulous scammers who claim to be able to reduce monthly mortgage payments or take other measures to prevent foreclosure. Many of these scammers claim to be credit counselors or attorneys who have special relationships with banks and will negotiate deals with creditors to reduce or forgive payments in exchange for an upfront fee. Research the companies and individuals you work with prior to paying any fees.
The scammer will claim if you surrender the title to your property, you can remain in the property as a renter and repurchase it at a later date. Then they offer terms with exorbitantly steep payments, and you end up owing more on the mortgage than the rent-to-buy home is worth. The perpetrator then keeps the home and all of the equity you have put into it.
Equity Skimming Schemes
Consumers should be suspicious of any service asking for upfront payment. Lawyers are exempted from this rule on upfront payment, but you should verify that a lawyer you are working with is licensed to practice law in your state through the state bar association's website. Visit the PA Bar Association to verify an attorney's status.
Advance Fees for Debt Counseling and
Debt Adjustment Services
Be aware of debt counseling and debt adjustment schemes that require upfront fees before services are performed. Check with your state regulator to verify a license (if required) and learn what, if any, upfront fees can be charged before services are provided. Debt adjustment/settlement services typically include an agreement with the consumer to distribute, supervise, coordinate, negotiate, or control the distribution of money or evidences thereof among one or more of the consumer's creditors. When using these services consumers may relinquish a great deal of control over their finances; it is important to know who you are working with when entering into an agreement.
Be aware of imposter scams, especially during times of crisis. These scams come in many varieties but ultimately the scammer impersonates someone you trust in order to convince you to send them money. Examples include family emergency scams and government imposter scams. More information can be found on the Federal Trade Commission's website .
Fraudulent Health Claims/Sales
Be highly suspicious of any prevention, treatment or cure for the coronavirus from untrustworthy sources. Verify all claims of these products with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Charitable Donation Scams
To avoid becoming the victim of a charity scam, verify that the charity is registered with your secretary of state by visiting Charities.PA.gov. You may also benefit from checking the organization's Charity Navigator rating or the Better Business Bureau rating.
Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users' devices and personal information. Find tips on protecting your smartphone from phony apps.
Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When you attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
Bailout Anticipation Loans
The CARES Act provides direct financial payments under certain circumstances. If you have filed a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019, the IRS does not need additional information from you. Any correspondence from the IRS will be done through the United States Postal Service and they will never call demanding payment or ask you to verify information like your bank account or social security number. For additional information visit the IRS: Economic impact payments: What you need to know.