We all know that these are unprecedented times, and it seems like the situation is changing on an almost daily basis. So we are horrified to learn that there are scammers trying to use this crisis to get your money or personal information. Some of these are outright scams, while others fall into the category of price gouging. We want to keep you informed so you can stay safe, not just from coronavirus, but from scammers trying to capitalize on it.
These scams are really just unscrupulous scammers trying to get your money or personal information. One scam we heard about was a phone call to individuals in high-risk categories, mostly seniors. The caller says they are going to be sending out COVID test kits, and all they need is some personal information. TrustDALE would like to remind you never to give out any personal information on an unsolicited phone call.
Another similar scam is callers who claim you are eligible for large government relief checks, up to $14,000. Again, all the need to check your eligibility is some personal information. Of course, there is no check on the other end of that phone call. Currently, the CARES Act stimulus package has provided for most American adults to receive $1,200 in relief funds and $500 for each child. There is no way to get more than that in individual relief funds, though some Americans with higher incomes may receive less. For more details on the relief funds, see this excellent CARES Act FAQ from the New York Times.
Also, some scammers are promising miracle cures to prevent or cure COVID-19. As of now, there is no known cure for COVID-19. Anyone who is promising a cure is lying to you.
This is a tough one. Sometimes, supply and demand is just the way our economy works. But in a crisis like this, we may see some outrageous price gouging. Fortunately, many states have provisions that take effect in times like these that prohibit price gouging.
We all know that certain staples right now are in high demand. Everything from facial tissue to hand sanitizer is almost impossible to find. That has led some enterprising scammers to offer these items at hugely inflated prices. In some cases, they may offer these items online at high prices even when the items don’t exist. Once you’ve paid, it can be hard to get your money back. That’s why we always recommend paying for purchases online with a credit card, not a debit card, so you have some fraud protection and chargeback options.
We’ve also seen businesses trying to make an extra buck by implementing impossible cancellation policies. One community member alerted us to a vacation rental company that was almost impossible to get a hold of. Once they reached someone, they were told that the updated cancellation policy now allows the renter to reschedule for any time after April 1, 2021. The catch is that the renter is responsible for any price difference, and prices for 2021 are nearly double what they were for 2020. This is a tough situation to be in, and there may be laws that prevent that type of gouging. If you aren’t sure, you can always contact the better business bureau in the state where you’re having trouble.
Stay Safe and Stay Smart
While we all do our part to stay safe and keep others safe, it is crucial that we stay smart, too. Don’t get scammed. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, the government will never request personal information over the phone. If you didn’t make the call and you don’t recognize the caller, never give out personal information. And if you see price gouging, report it to the authorities, as that kind of behavior may actually be illegal right now.