Montco DA Warn 'CORONAVIRUS-RELATED SCAMS ARE POPPING UP'

Montgomery County District Attorney's Office warn residents of Coronavirus scams.

"Scammers are not taking a rest during this pandemic,” said District Attorney Kevin Steele. “Be careful which emails you open, check out any companies asking for a donation via email or on social media, and be careful of unsolicited phone calls. The best way to protect yourself and your money from scammers is always to do some checking. And sometimes pressing the delete button or hanging up is the safest thing to do.”

The Montgomery County Detective Bureau has put together a list of common scams and new scams that are being used to target people and their money during this national health crisis as well as suggestions for what you should do to protect yourself:

Online Shops that Never Send Goods:
Online sellers claim they have in-demand products like face masks or disinfecting wipes or cleaning supplies. You place an order, but you never get the merchandise. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name—including scammers. What to do: Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card (not debit card) and keep a record of your transaction.

Scam Emails:
Emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites try to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes. A new popular email scam is one that says “Thank you for your order” or “Thank you for subscribing.” Be careful with any email with a COVID-19-related subject line or from any “company” saying you just placed an order or subscribed. What to do: Avoid clicking on any link in an unsolicited email, even if it says to “unsubscribe.” The best thing to do is delete the email.

Fake Charity Emails:
You might be looking to help buy supplies for doctors and nurses, donate to a food fund for children’s lunches or some other worthy cause related to coronavirus relief measures. There are some truly legitimate and wonderful charities doing this work. But be careful. Scammers are also looking at using the same “hook” to get your money by using names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. Money lost to bogus charities means fewer donations to help those in need. What to do: Check out the sender name in the email by scrolling over it to see if it’s a legitimate address for the charity. Check out the charity on charitynavigator.org or charitywatch.org. If you give, pay by credit card—never by gift card or wire transfer.

Robocalls:
Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. What to do: Just hang up. Don’t say anything. And don’t press a number for the operator to tell them to put you on their “do not call” list—as it might actually lead to more robocalls since the scammers then know it’s a working number.

Online Tests and Cures:
The Food and Drug Administration has not authorized any online tests for the virus. And there are no known cures for COVID-19 at this time. In fact, there have been reports of deaths by people who have taken what they thought was a cure for the coronavirus. What to do: The best way to prevent the spread of coronavirus is to practice social distancing by staying at home. If you must go out for groceries or needed supplies, stay six feet away from other people. Wash your hands for 20 seconds and use hand sanitizers.

Medicare Beneficiary Scams:
Scammers are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. The services are unapproved and illegitimate. Fraudsters are targeting beneficiaries in a number of ways, including telemarketing calls, social media platforms and by door-to-door visits. The personal information collected can be used to fraudulently bill federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft. What to do: Always be cautious of unsolicited requests for Medicare or Medicaid numbers. Ignore offers or ads for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media—a doctor or other trusted healthcare provider should assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing.

Social Security Benefits Suspended:
There have been reports of letters, emails and calls threatening suspension of Social Security benefits due to coronavirus-related office closures. The Social Security Administration will not suspend or discontinue benefits or payments because their offices are closed. The letters and emails instruct Social Security beneficiaries to call the phone number and when you do, scammers may mislead beneficiaries into providing personal information or payments to maintain regular benefit payments during this period of COVID-19 office closures. What to do: If you receive what you think is a suspicious letter, text, call or email about a problem with your Social Security number, account or payment, hang up or do not respond. You are encouraged to report Social Security scams using our dedicated online form, at https://oig.ssa.gov.