As your community bank, Muncy Bank wants you to be aware of the current coronavirus scams and is here to provide the information you need to avoid these frauds and stay safe.
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Avoid These 7 COVID-19 Scams
Many Americans are facing abrupt changes to their daily lives as a result of the coronavirus. We’re watching what we touch, where we go and donning face masks in public. To make matters worse, the coronavirus is no longer simply a health threat. The environment of fear and isolation has opened the door to new frauds and scams that threaten your financial well-being. Pennsylvania authorities and elected officials are working hard to curtail the rise in coronavirus-related scams affecting our state. Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro warns, “Scammers are working overtime to try and make a profit during this emergency, and we are staying on high alert to stop them.” As your community bank, Muncy Bank wants you to be aware of the current coronavirus scams and is here to provide the information you need to avoid these frauds and stay safe.
We all want to stay abreast of the latest news regarding COVID-19. Be careful, however, when using the internet or your phone to find information. Fake websites and apps designed to prey on your need for information are stealing your personal information by hacking into your computer or phone. Don’t click on web links that are emailed or texted to you. The best way to stay safe online is to update or install anti-virus software, stick with credible news sources and manually type in websites rather than following links.
It’s tax time and there is a government stimulus check coming, it’s easy to believe that the IRS may need information from you. To the contrary, the IRS will NOT contact you to confirm your social security number or bank account number, and they will not ask you to pay a fee in order to receive your Economic Impact Payment. The government will NOT send you an email with links to submit information. Clicking on these imposter weblinks can infect your computer or phone with malware designed to steal your files or record your information.
Michael Montanez, Acting Special Agent in Charge of IRS Criminal Investigations Philadelphia Field Office warns Pennsylvania residents, “Everyone should be wary of swindlers trying to steal their COVID-19 Economic Impact Payment, as well as crooked individuals trying to take advantage of the crisis by tricking people into unnecessarily turning over their personal, sensitive information.” You can find more information on known tax scams on the IRS consumer alert web page.
Fake Health Solutions
Fraudsters are impersonating the CDC and local health departments. The scammers may call or even visit your home posing as the health department and announce that you have been exposed to COVID-19. They will attempt to sell you a testing kit, medicine or vaccine. According to the FDA, there are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19. If someone is trying to sell you a testing kit or medicine, it is a scam. For more information and to see a list of companies that have been warned by the FDA and FTC, visit the FDA news release from March 9, 2020.
Another current health scam is the sale of air filters that claim to remove viruses from the air in your home. These companies are preying on your fears. Allowing them access to your home compromises your personal and financial safety. According to Patrick Hearn at Digital Trends, while some filters can remove viruses from the air, buying a new air filtration system is not an effective means of protecting yourself from COVID-19.
Restrictions and closings of local PA businesses have led many residents to file for unemployment. Scammers are taking advantage of the increase in unemployment claims by creating fake websites aimed at stealing applicants’ personal data. The only genuine website for filing unemployment is through the Department of Labor and Industry at https://www.uc.pa.gov.
As a result of social distancing, many family rooms, boardrooms and town halls have been replaced with virtual gathering places such as Zoom. The Western Pennsylvania COVID-19 Fraud Task Force warns that a new threat has emerged -- Zoom bombing. Hackers are slipping into video conferences and posting discriminatory messages, invading people's privacy and threatening the security of personal information. If you are using a video conferencing service to stay in touch with co-workers or family, please keep these tips in mind:
- Use a private invitation link sent by email or text with a per-meeting ID
- Create a secure password and don’t share it with others.
- Keep your video conferencing software up to date for the best security.
- Enable the “waiting room” feature to screen users before they enter your chat.
Raising prices during a time of crisis is unethical and, in many states, illegal. Pennsylvania is taking a stand against coronavirus-related price gouging, especially on items such as disinfectant, hand sanitizer and face masks. In March, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro told the public, "I will not tolerate any merchant, taking advantage of Pennsylvania during a health situation like we are experiencing here." To report price gouging in your area, send an email to email@example.com.
If you are financially able to help others during this time, consider making a donation to a reputable nonprofit organization. Be aware, however, that many fake charities have emerged to try and take your money. Before contributing to a charity, ask for their EIN. If they don’t have an EIN, don’t donate to them. Don’t be afraid to ask questions about their mission and how they will use your money. To check the legitimacy of a charity and find a list of recommended organizations providing relief from COVID-19, check out Charity Navigator.
If you encounter fraud or fall victim to a scam, the authorities in Pennsylvania are here to help. The US Attorney’s Office has created a Western Pennsylvania COVID-19 Fraud Task Force. They can be contacted at 1-888-219-9372 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Suspected tax-related fraud should be reported to PhiladelphiaFieldOffice@ci.irs.gov. Resources for Pennsylvania can be found on the United States Department of Justice’s Fraud Page.
At Muncy Bank, we hope that you and your family are remaining safe and healthy during this unsettling time. Since 1893, we have been your “Hometown Bank” providing the best checking accounts, customer service and financial products. We continue to serve our communities throughout the coronavirus pandemic. For more information on the steps our community offices are taking to protect the people and communities we serve, click here. For any banking needs or questions, please contact your community office. We are here to help.