Officials from the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities have seen an increase in scams across the board, many of them related to the Coronavirus.
The pandemic has created uncertainty and financial strain for many.
Experts say scammers are trying to capitalize.
“They will follow whatever it is that people are paying attention to, kind of like moths to the light,” said Tim Arthun, deputy secretary for financial services at the Pennsylvania Department of Banking and Securities.
Arthun said the pandemic has given scammers more time and more access to potential victims.
“They’re trying to get folks that might be sitting at home, might be isolated and they’re going to use every opportunity to try to get somebody.”
It’s happening more often.
Arthur says the Federal Trade Commission received more than 6,000 reports of Coronavirus scams in the last 5 months. That doesn’t include reports made to state agencies or the scams that go unreported.
“So that number is pretty staggering and yet it’s only scratching the surface of what is actually happening on a day-to-day basis,” Arthun said.
Many of the ploys prey on the most vulnerable, telling the victim they must provide more information to receive economic impact payments or unemployment compensation.
“It might be a phone call that’s disguised as a number that looks familiar to you as really a way to try to get you to take the bait,” Arthun said.
Arthun said anyone can be fooled by the scams; criminals are always adapting. He said scammers have been using different methods to target young adults.
“We see that they’re just as likely to fall victim to a scam that might involve a text, or some type of scheme that involves a payment app,” he said. “Something that they’re more familiar with, that there’s a level of trust.”
Consumers can protect themselves by looking for red flags. They include offers with a sense of secrecy, limited time offers, ones that promise you payment in the future or sound too good to be true.
Arthun calls offers you did not initiate that ask for banking or personal information “a dead giveaway.”
If you do fall victim, Arthun said contact your financial institution immediately and report the fraud to state or local police.
“The more folks that are reporting it and the less shame that we have around this topic, the better off we are,” Arthun said. “Scammers are going to get more sophisticated, but fortunately we can take very easy steps to protect ourselves, our finances and our family.”
If you’ve received a suspicious offer and you’re unsure of what to do, Arthun suggests calling 1-800- PABANK for guidance.
Visit the PA Department of Banking and Securities website for more information about common scams.
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