Flashback to the last crisis that brought out
scammers. On Sept. 11, 2001, Beatrice Kaufman was in the Hamptons. She’d decided to have her 6,000-square-foot apartment in New York renovated.
Weeks after the towers collapsed, Kaufman
filed papers with the Federal Emergency Management Agency and her insurance company claiming that the attacks caused her to have to leave her apartment suddenly and unexpectedly, and looking for them
to pay the half-million dollars of the renovation costs she’d already begun. The Manhattan DA was having none of that — and Kaufman went to prison.
As people get desperate, or
scared, they look for solutions. And sometimes those “solutions” are scams.
So this year, as COVID-19 expands, scams are on the rise. “Unfortunately in times of crisis,
people who run usual cons adapt really quickly to take advantage of the situation,” Mary McCune, a staff attorney at Legal Services NYC who specializes in consumer protection told THE
Among the scams are people offering bogus treatments and cures.
Let’s start with the facts. There is no vaccine or cure yet for the coronavirus, according to the FDA.
So if someone calls or posts on Craigslist and offers you air purifiers to remove the virus from the air, remember — there is no such thing. And home test kits are not real and do not work.
They’re a total scam. You can only get a coronavirus test at a medical testing site.
There are plenty of social media scams to be aware of. For example, a Facebook post that advertises
to seniors a “special grant to help pay medical bills” is a scam. Mostly they’re phishing for data.
Any site that asks for personal banking information and your social
security number in order to receive funds is a scam. And malware is always a risk and can lead to identity theft. If a friend pings you with a coronavirus-related offer, it’s possible their
account was hacked.
These offers can be very real looking. For example:
CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311,
Text COVID to 692692 | NJ Health Dept. | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211
This may look real, but it’s a
Even as people struggle to survive the pandemic, opportunistic thieves are hard at work. According to Manhattan prosecutors, Muge Ma tried to scam $20 million from a federal
relief program that was supposed to help small businesses. Ma filed paperwork with the SBA, claiming that he paid millions in salaries to employees of New York International Capital LLC and Hurley
Prosecutors caught Ma since his companies’ addresses were the same as Ma’s personal residence.. This case is just one example of fraud related to the $2 trillion
Perhaps the most pernicious are calls from so-called government agencies promising help to local residents. The callers offer to help people access SNAP, Medicaid, or other
government benefits. All they need is personal information. Some scammers pretend to be from the IRS and say they can help get stimulus checks faster. This simply isn’t how the IRS does
business, so don’t believe it.
And last, but certainly not least, there’s price gouging in a pandemic.
Richard Schirripa was accused of running scams involving coveted N95
face masks. Schirripa told federal agents he’d been given the nickname “Mask Man.” The pharmacist spent nearly $500,000 on face masks in February and sold them at a markup of as much
as 50%, prosecutors said. “When you have something no one else has, it’s not a high price,” Schirripa said in court papers. “I used to sell a box of these for like $20, now
it’s like $15 a mask.” COVID-19 fraud is rampant, and not likely to slow down anytime soon.
But perhaps the most heartless COVID-19 scam what’s known as Puppy Scam.
solution to cabin fever for some families is to think about a new pet. People search the internet, find the perfect puppy, and are asked for a deposit to hold the pet.
Many victims who
contacted BBB’s Scam Tracker reported they wanted to adopt a puppy in order to ease their isolation and brighten their lives during the pandemic.
But time and again, the people sent
hundreds of dollars to scammers who posted cute puppy pix found that there was no dog in their future.
So, as we all face challenges in the weeks and months ahead, just beware. Whether it’s a
cute puppy or a cure for COVID-19, if it seems to be too good to be true, it probably is.
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