With the multiple stimulus checks paid over the past year, consumers and businesses have had a new pile of money to flood the system. In the months to come, crooks will likely see their eyes there.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, more than 380,000 fraud complaints have been filed since the start of the pandemic, and consumers have been defrauded of nearly $ 366 million. The government agency said scams related to the coronavirus peaked in the spring as fears of the virus began to spread in the United States.
With all of this in mind, this is an especially important time for consumers to be on the lookout for scams. Here are some of the most important to know.
Stimulus or not, many Americans are still struggling financially. At the same time, payday loan regulations were overturned earlier last year by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, making it easier for payday lenders to prey on the most vulnerable financially.
Despite the flashback, consumers should be aware that while payday loans can look attractive by providing quick access to funds, they also come with exorbitant interest rates which can make repayment very difficult, while potentially causing loss. serious damage to the consumer’s credit rating. (which can make it more difficult to get approval for more loans in the future and hamper job prospects).
Phone scammers took robocalls to the next level during the pandemic. In response, agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Federal Communications Commission have issued warnings on robocall and text message scams targeting both consumers and small businesses during the pandemic.
These scams can involve anything from offering false information about the virus, to selling home test kits, to offering bogus government assistance. A call claims to be from the US Department of Health, warning of an outbreak “in your area”.
Consumers should be aware never to share personal or financial information over the phone with suspicious and unverified callers and not to open suspicious text links from unknown numbers.
When the first round of stimulus checks took place in April and May, government agencies warned of a variety of scams, usually in the form of bogus emails or government phone calls, that attempted to phish. information by pretending to be the IRS or demanding payment. necessary to receive funds.
Now that consumers are on the verge of receiving another $ 1,400 stimulus check, another round of stimulus scam calls will surely come with it. It’s important to remember that the IRS – the agency responsible for sending the checks – will never contact you by phone, email, text, or social media. Consumers should only use the IRS website to submit information to the agency.
Most people should know that they only buy from verified sellers on established websites. If you order from a website like Amazon (NASDAQ: AMZN), Etsy (NASDAQ: ETSY), or eBay (NASDAQ: EBAY), check seller reviews to make sure they are legitimate. If you are ordering from a store’s website, make sure the business is real and check the return policy.
Consumers should also be aware of parcel delivery scams, where a fraudster will send a fake tracking link for your parcel. These links may prompt you to enter personal information or call a number due to an issue with your delivery, and may also install malware on your device.
As a result of the pandemic, consumer adoption of peer-to-peer mobile payment applications such as PayPal (NASDAQ: PYPL) Venmo, Square’s (NYSE: SQ) Cash App, and Zelle is growing.
These platforms are all easy to use and provide consumers with a fast and secure way to send and receive money from people they know and trust. However, their user-friendliness also makes them popular with crooks requesting transfers, where getting your money back can be extremely difficult.
Beware of anyone you don’t know who requests money through any of these mobile apps. This includes apparently well-meaning people asking for charitable donations, such as anyone managing a COVID-19 relief fund. If you’re sending money to an organization, check out how to do it using a payments app. If you are sending someone money, make sure you verify their information and that they are trustworthy.
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