Community Roundup: COVID-19 Fraud Prevention Seminars

Jul 7, 2020

Unfortunately, fraudsters and scammers view times of crises as an opportunity to prey on people in order to obtain their personal and financial information. To arm people with the knowledge and tools they need to protect their most valuable information, PFCU’s Accredited Financial Counselor Erin Ellis hosted two free COVID-19 Fraud Prevention Virtual Seminars on June 25 and 26.

The seminars were grounded in research from the FINRA Foundation, the Better Business Bureau, and the Stanford Center for Longevity that shows how the risk factors that increase one’s likelihood of falling for a scam are all heavily present during this pandemic. The research found that people who feel isolated from others—and people who actively isolated themselves—were more likely to engage with scammers when they did not have anyone available to talk to. While this is always true, we are all now more vulnerable during the pandemic than we are under “normal” circumstances, especially individuals who live alone that have been following stay-at-home orders and have had limited to no interaction with others.

In addition to this, research shows that our judgment is significantly more clouded because there has been an overwhelming amount of complex information on the news and various social platforms, our lives are increasingly uncertain, we have new, conflicting priorities that distract us, and many of us are seeking out positive outcomes during current crises.  Uncertainty and clouded judgment can cause individuals to fall victim to frauds and scams that typically wouldn’t, especially during a time when we’re all looking for ways to help each other out.

There are many different types of online financial scams that circulate year-round, but during times of crises, there are waves of scams that are specifically crafted to catch individuals’ attention and draw them in. During the seminars, Erin discussed the most common types of scams that people can expect to see amidst the current pandemic like treatment and cures scams; email, text, and malicious websites that use contact tracing; robocalls; Economic Impact Payment (EIP), government stimulus, and unemployment scams; and fake charities that leverage a fictional person in need.

After detailing the different types of scams and the intricate details of each, Erin emphasized the importance of taking proactive steps to prevent oneself from becoming the target of a scam like checking your credit report on a weekly basis, placing a credit freeze or fraud alert when necessary, and more.

While it’s important to take steps to prevent your information from being compromised by a fraudster, it is equally important to report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at www.identitytheft.gov so that the fraudster cannot take advantage of others who may not know what to look for when trying to detect a scam. For more information on how to avoid financial scams online, visit the FTC’s website for various resources.

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