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COVID-19 Scams Virginia Residents Should Avoid

COVID-19 Scams Virginia Residents Should Avoid

Are you up-to-date on the latest Virginia coronavirus scams? From fraudulent activity around the IRS’s Economic Impact Payments to price gouging, treatment and testing cyber scams, and more, this article will walk you through COVID-19 scams in Prince William and Fauquier County so you know what to look for and how to avoid becoming a victim. As your local community bank, TFB is here for Northern Virginia. Contact us with any of your questions or concerns.

Types of Scams

Scammers are constantly adapting their approaches to take advantage of the headlines and catch people off guard. In this section, we’ll cover the most common types of COVID-19 scams right now. Follow the Federal Trade Commission’s Scam Alerts here.

Economic Relief Scams

The Virginia Coronavirus Fraud Task Force and the IRS are warning taxpayers about “stimulus” check scams related to the economic payments signed into law with the CARES act.

The IRS will not call, text, or email you to verify payment or personal information.

How it Works

Scammers may try to get you to sign over your check, “verify” your bank account information, or pay them money to “expedite” your payment. The IRS is urging people who receive these requests by phone or message of any kind to hang up, ignore, avoid, and not engage.

What You Need to Know

The IRS will not call you to verify payment or personal information. Do not give your private information to anyone. The IRS will not email or text you, so do not respond to suspicious messages with personal information and never click on any links that are included in those emails or texts. As posted on the website:

More than 80 million Economic Impact Payments have already been delivered to the nation’s taxpayers. More payments are on their way. As part of this effort, the IRS has launched two tools to help taxpayers get their payments:

  1. Get My Payment is helping millions of taxpayers. Since its launch on April 15, millions of taxpayers have been able to input their direct deposit information to speed—and track—their payments. The IRS reminds taxpayers the information is updated once daily, usually overnight, so they only need to check the application once a day.
  2. The Non-Filers Enter Payment Info tool is helping millions of taxpayers successfully submit basic information to receive Economic Impact Payments quickly to their bank accounts. This tool is designed only for people who are not required to submit a tax return.

Treatment & Medicare Scams

Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and treatments for the coronavirus. Look out for phrases like  “COVID-19 kit”, “Coronavirus package,” or Medicare benefits. “It is so important that Virginians stay vigilant and do their research before giving their money to anyone purporting to sell preventative medications,” says Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring.

Be on the look-out for offers of fake vaccines or treatments labeled as "COVID-19 Kit" or "Coronavirus Package".

How it Works

Scammers are claiming to sell hard-to-find medical supplies, such as surgical masks and personal protective equipment, through fake online shops and social media accounts. Avoid making purchases from unfamiliar websites or sources. When a victim attempts to make a purchase through one of these fraudulent sources, the scammer pockets the money and never provides the supplies that were purchased.

With Virginians living in fear and isolation (along with the rest of the country) and yearning for a return to normalcy, scammers are eager to make money off of unproven supplements, cures, and other “treatments” for coronavirus. They may also offer these products in exchange for confidential personal information like your Social Security Number or Medicare ID.

What You Need to Know

There is no current FDA-approved treatment or vaccine for COVID-19. “Fraudulent health claims, tests, and products can pose serious health risks. They may keep some patients from seeking care or delay necessary medical treatment,” the FDA states on its website. View the list of businesses the FDA has sent warning letters here.

Utility & Government Imposter Scams

Scammers are posing as government and utility company representatives to persuade victims to pay them money or provide their private financial information.

Always verify the legitimacy of a suspicious call if they claim to be from a government agency.

How it Works

This scam is meant to instill fear and worry in the victim that they might have their utilities shut off or face legal charges if they don’t comply.

What You Need to Know

If you are contacted by someone identifying themselves from a government agency or utility company, hang up without giving them your personal or financial information. To verify the legitimacy of the call, find the phone number from the government or utility company’s official website and contact them to confirm.

Charity Scams

Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and geographical areas that have been affected by the virus. They may impersonate well-known organizations such as the CDC or WHO. Scammers also use fake charity names that sound very similar to those of legitimate organizations.

What You Need to Know

Organizations like WHO and the CDC do not solicit donations over the phone. For other charities, do some research to verify that a charity is legitimate before making a donation or providing any information. Use the IRS Tax Exempt Organization Search to check for the charity in question. If it is not listed here, then it is probably fraudulent and should be reported.

Price Gouging Scams

Look out for price increases of more than 20% (compared to the price one week prior to an emergency declaration from the Commonwealth of Virginia). Price gouging during the Coronavirus occurs most often with essential goods like hand sanitizer, hygiene products, toilet paper, and other paper goods.

Virginia's Post-Disaster Anti-Price Gouging Act prohibits charging "unconscionable prices" for "necessary goods and services" following a state of emergency declaration.

What You Need to Know

Virginia’s anti-price gouging statute is in effect because of statewide states of emergency. If you see price gouging, you should report it to Attorney General Herring’s Consumer Protection Section by emailing or going through the online Price Gouging Complaint Form.

Cyber & Phishing Scams

Beware of emails or any solicitation coming from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and other healthcare organizations. Scammers are posing as health officials to gain access to your personal medical information.

Never give out your private information. Scammers send phishing emails containing hazardous malware posed as healthcare officals.

What You Need to Know

Never click on links or open attachments from suspicious emails or text messages. These links and attachments may infect your electronic device with malware and put you at risk for further exploitation.

Government and healthcare agencies will not ask you to verify your personal information via email in order to receive your economic stimulus funds or other pandemic relief assistance.

Warning Signs

Familiarize yourself with these tell-tale signs of a scam:

  • The Offer or Deal Seems Too Good to Be True: If it seems too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Suspicious Email Addresses and Syntax Errors: Pay close attention to email addresses and domain names. Businesses rarely use free email services like Hotmail, AOL, Yahoo, or Gmail. Pay attention to grammar and punctuation. Syntax and grammatical errors, low-resolution images, and sloppy formatting can be a dead giveaway that a correspondence is a scam.
  • You’re Being Asked to Provide Private Information: Government and healthcare agencies will never ask you to provide your personal information via email, text message, or phone.
  • You’re Being Pressured: Scammers will often enforce the urgency of you acting quickly in order to not lose out on the offer being provided. They urge victims to send payment or provide personal information within a short time frame and may threaten legal consequences if you fail to comply.
  • Uncommon Payment Methods: Scammers usually prefer payments to be made through untraceable and roundabout payment methods. Be suspicious of someone demanding payments via wire transfer, gift cards, or cash.

TFB Is Here For Our Northern Virginia Communities

In support of the CDC guidelines to prevent the spread of Coronavirus and in compliance with Virginia Executive Order 55, our TFB branch locations in Fauquier and Prince William counties will offer drive-thru only service at the current time. Click here for more details.

You can also access your accounts anytime with TFB Online Banking and TFB Mobile Banking! We are also available over the phone to answer your questions, listen to your concerns, or just say hi.