Scams | Consumer Information
PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM COVID-19 SCAMS
Wilton Manors Police Department wants you to be aware of a few COVID-19 scams so you can protect yourself and others from becoming a victim. The only thing that can make a pandemic worse is letting cyber-criminals and scammers take advantage of you.
Government-issued online coronavirus tests
As more and more people test positive for COVID-19 it is obvious the likelihood of being exposed increases. Subsequently, Coronavirus tests are in shorter supply and many health conscious people are eager to find one. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently approved the first at-home test which is a nasal swab which has been found to be safe and accurate. However, this FDA authorized test kit only allows you to collect samples from home with approval from your health care provider. The samples still need to be sent to a specific lab for analysis. Remember, currently there are no tests which allow you to complete the entire test and receive test results from home.
Blood and saliva from ‘COVID survivors’
There are websites selling blood and saliva samples from “coronavirus survivors.” Criminals are willing to exploit any vulnerability and if you are desperate for immunity and searching for a cure you will inevitably locate one of these sites. There are no FDA-approved products to prevent Coronavirus, and if there were we can assure you these products would not be contaminated blood and/or saliva which could contain COVID-19 or any other virus or disease. The FDA is working with medical product developers to rapidly advance the development and availability of vaccines and treatments for COVID-19. Although there are investigational Coronavirus vaccines and treatments being studied in clinical trials, these products are in the early stages of development and they have not been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.
Fake coronavirus miracle cures
There are websites and stores selling products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19 and a wide range of diseases. Again, there are no FDA-approved products to prevent COVID-19. An example the FDA lists on their website is people trying to prevent COVID-19 by taking a product called “chloroquine phosphate.” Chloroquine Phosphate is sold to treat parasites in aquarium fish and it is only sold for veterinary use. Do not take any form of chloroquine unless it has been prescribed for you by your health care provider and obtained from legitimate sources because it may have adverse effects, including serious illness and death. Additionally, do not take any products marketed for veterinary use, or “for research use only,” or otherwise not for human consumption, which have not been evaluated for safety. Always be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases and do not substitute scientific evidence for personal testimonials. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is, because diseases cannot be treated quickly with “miracle cures” and “quick fixes.”
Perhaps the most subtle crime right now is the donation scam. Unfortunately there are fake charitable organizations in times of crisis and this pandemic is no different. Crowd-sourcing platforms are life-saving when they are hosted by actual charities, but savvy criminals can dupe a lot of well-meaning people into handing their money to criminals. Check the credibility of all charitable organizations on the Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services website (fdacs.gov) before you donate any money.
Phony small business loan sites
Small business owners are struggling, and scammers know the Payroll Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan processes can be difficult to navigate. The only place where you should apply for government assistance for your small business is with the U.S. Small Business Administration at SBA.gov. You should never give a person or company a “deposit” or “down payment” to assist with a government loan.
The Federal Trade Commission indicates coronavirus-related scams have cost Americans over thirteen million dollars this year. Every day, Google blocks more than one hundred million phishing emails as criminals try to steal money and personal information. According to Google, approximately eighteen million of these emails are coronavirus-related. Additionally, there are over forty thousand domain names with the word “coronavirus.” The scam websites pose as the real thing, collecting personal data and credit card numbers. Scam calls are getting more convincing too as scammers’ come up with new tricks. Stay alert, do your research and don’t become a victim.
IRS Tax Scams
SCAM ALERT... Is the IRS calling you? It is a scam!The IRS recently announced that scam artists are aggressively calling and posing as an IRS employee. The caller may state that enforcement action is proceeding against you and asks that you return their call immediately or face serious financial consequences. In subsequent conversations, the caller may ask for personal identification such as your social security number or your date of birth. Or, the caller may simply demand payment by way of a debit card or cash. It is estimated that over 5,000 people have already been victimized to the tune of over $29 million!!
The IRS never calls you. Any contact the IRS makes with you will come by way of the US Mail. Nor does the IRS ever ask you for personal information (they already have it!).
If you are contacted by one of these scam artists you can report to the IRS at 800-829-1040.
For more information please visit the following IRS webpage: https://www.irs.gov/uac/Newsroom/IRS-Warns-of-Continued-Scams-and-Varied-Tactics-as-the-Tax-Deadline-Nears
International Lottery Scams
"Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000,000 U.S. CASH! One Lump sum! Tax free! Your odds to WIN are 1-6."
-Sound great? It’s a fraud.
Scam operators, often based in Canada, are using the telephone and direct mail to entice U.S. consumers to buy chances in high-stakes foreign lotteries from as far away as Australia and Europe. These lottery solicitations violate U.S. law, which prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail.
Still, federal law enforcement authorities are intercepting and destroying millions of foreign lottery mailings sent or delivered by the truckload into the U.S. And consumers, lured by prospects of instant wealth, are responding to the solicitations that do get through to the tune of $120 million a year, according to the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, says most promotions
for foreign lotteries are likely to be phony. Many scam operators don’t even buy the promised lottery tickets. Others buy some tickets, but keep the “winnings” for themselves. In addition, lottery hustlers use victims’ bank account numbers to make unauthorized withdrawals or their credit card numbers to run up additional charges.
The FTC has these words of caution for consumers who are thinking about responding to a foreign lottery:
- If you play a foreign lottery, through the mail or over the telephone, you’re violating federal law.
- There are no secret systems for winning foreign lotteries. Your chances of winning more than the cost of your tickets are slim to none.
- If you purchase one foreign lottery ticket, expect many more bogus offers for lottery or investment “opportunities.” Your name will be placed on “sucker lists” that fraudulent telemarketers buy and sell.
- Keep your credit card and bank account numbers to yourself. Scam artists often ask for them during an unsolicited sales pitch.
In the last week we have received an unusual amount of reports of phone scams. The reports indicate that the victim is contacted by telephone and told that they either won a prize or that they are late on a bill. The victim is asked to purchase a pre-paid card from a local store or to wire money. The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) has found that almost all of these crimes originate from outside of the USA. The suspects are purchasing MagicJack and other V.O.I.P. phone systems, hook them up to a computer or internet connection and they are now free to call internationally from their home country to the USA for free since it appears to be a local call.
The Federal Trade Commission has a task force that investigates these crimes and urges victims to contact them as they have been pretty successful in working with other countries to apprehend and prosecute these suspects. Below is a small section from the FTC website.
The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant (https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov) or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 1,500 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s Web site provides free information on a variety of consumer topics (http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/consumer.shtm).
If someone wants to report this type of crime, they should file a formal complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by either going online or calling the phone number provided above.