By Delta Jones-Walker
As if exceeding 1 million cases of the Coronavirus in the United States is not tragic enough, now countless Americans have become targets for financial scams. From senior citizens and homeowners to entrepreneurs and every day taxpaying citizens, no one is off limits. When a widespread crisis occurs, there are always scammers waiting in the wings to take advantage of one’s vulnerability.
The spread of Covid-19 has caused record-breaking numbers of people to file for unemployment, businesses large and small to file for bankruptcy or simply close their doors. Meanwhile, people are faced with losing their homes and no way to support their families. The financial devastation brought on by the pandemic has left many distraught, desperate and likely suspects for scams. Trust me when I tell you, scammers have no sympathy when they are out for the take.
It is my hope that this article helps you recognize the red flags when these con artists reach out to take you for a ride. It’s ruthless out there, and understanding the trickery and illusions of these scams can help avoid further financial devastation.
Once the shelter in place orders started being enforced across the country, small businesses were among the first to suffer. The government reacted by making monies available as low interest loans and grants. That set the stage for scammers to also pose as “saviors of small businesses.” It’s so easy to look up a business owner and reach out via email or phone and offer a lifeline. How does one tell the difference?
- Check the source of the email. Is it a personal account such as Gmail or Yahoo? That’s a red flag.
- Research the source. Get the representative’s name (if they will even give it you) and Google him/her and the company. Read reviews from other customers. If there is no website or other online history of the company providing funding for businesses, this is another huge red flag.
- If they ask for money or any type of fees in order for you to receive assistance, hang up! It’s definitely a scam.
- If someone requests personal information such as your social security number or banking information over the phone or via email, do not share this data. Ask for a number to customer service, and the response will likely be push back or they’ll hang up.
- Is the representative pushy or aggressive? If he or she is pressuring you to decide right away, then it’s probably not a good idea to move forward.
Now, let’s talk about the job seekers out there. Being laid off or let go suddenly can place one in a whole different head space, especially if there are no reserve funds to tap into. Enter the scam artist with a dream job opportunity. Know the signs!
- As mentioned above, check the email address and the wording of the job description. Does it sound professional and legitimate or thrown together hastily?
- Research the company via the internet while checking to see if the job opportunity is posted where you can apply online.
- Are they offering a job without an interview? That’s a red flag.
- Are they asking for personal information that has nothing to do with the job description? Hang up! It’s a scam.
- Remember, in this day and age, most companies have an online presence and a way for you to contact them via phone, email or mail. If this information is not readily available, then the job opportunity is most likely a hoax.
Lastly, beware of anyone contacting you to forgive business or college loans. With so much oversharing on social media, it’s easier than ever to look someone up, see where they work, live, attend school, who their families members are and more. This intel helps the scam artist develop a script designed to make the target feel at ease. Be on the lookout for the scam artist ask for your account number or credit card number, or request for payment to get things moving on the loan forgiveness. Politely end the conversation, and hang up. IT’S A SCAM!
It pains me to know that there are heartless people out there who prey on the misfortunes of others. Do not let the tragedies of the Coronavirus pandemic cause you to become a target for financial ruin. If you have questions or need help determining whether you are being scammed, give us a call at Atled Financial. We are ready and willing to assist. In the meantime, stay safe and be careful out there!
Connect with Delta Jones-Walker and Atled Financial on Facebook, Twitter: @Atled_Financial and LinkedIn! To schedule a complimentary consultation or a presentation to your group or organization, call 219-513-3710 or email firstname.lastname@example.org and mention this column. Topic ideas for this column are welcome!
*Securities and advisory services offered through Woodbury Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC. Insurance services offered through Atled Financial Group 717 B Main Street Schererville, IN 46375 which is not affiliated with Woodbury Financial.