The coronavirus pandemic is impacting communities all across the globe. The Georgia Department of Public Health has already confirmed 33,833 cases of COVID-19 in our state as of May 10th. Unfortunately, the coronavirus outbreak is not over yet—more cases are expected to arise in the coming days and weeks.
On top of the public health concerns, there are also serious worries about coronavirus-related fraud. As explained by the Georgia Attorney General Christopher M. Carr, “Scammers like to seize on whatever is making headlines.” Here, our Georgia attorneys provide an overview of COVID-19 scams that you should watch out for and we highlight tips you can use to protect yourself and your family.
Four Coronavirus Scams to Watch Out For
As part of the COVID-19 economic relief package, many Americans became eligible for $1,200 stimulus checks ($2,400 per qualifying married couple). Sadly, scammers started targeting these payments almost immediately. In April, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) issued official guidance, warning people to beware of scams tied to stimulus payments.
Identity Theft Schemes (Phishing)
Identity theft is one of the most common types of fraud in Georgia. State officials believe that unscrupulous people are using the coronavirus as a hook to obtain sensitive personal information for the purposes of stealing identities. While identity theft comes in many forms, it often involves some form of ‘phishing’.
Put simply, phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending fake emails or other messages that are made to look like they are from a reputable company/government agency. In reality, phishing emails come from a fraudster and they are crafted in order to get a person to share their passwords, credit card, bank account details, or other sensitive information.
Fake Cures and Fraudulent Health Products
With so many people worried about their health and safety, regulators are worried about fake cures and other scams involving health products. Do not purchase a COVID-19 “cure” or “treatment” without first consulting with a qualified doctor. You are going to hear about successful vaccines and treatment on the news, not from marketing materials. If a health product seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Bogus Charity Solicitations
The COVID-19 pandemic is both a public health crisis and an economic crisis. Many vulnerable people need help. Sadly, there are also scammers trying to take advantage of the situation and raise money for bogus charities. Consumer protection experts warn that charity scams also increase after a major disaster. Beware of phony charity solicitations.
How to Avoid COVID-19 Scams in Georgia
In March, the Georgia Department of Law’s Consumer Protection Division released a public statement warning residents to watch out for coronavirus scams. Although these fraud schemes can come in a wide range of different forms, there are proactive steps that you can take to protect yourself and your family. Georgia officials offer the following four tips:
- Do Not Click Untrustworthy Links: If you are downloading something on to your computer, please verify that it is from a reliable source. You do not want a virus or spyware on your device.
- Protect Your Sensitive Personal Information: As was mentioned, many scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to engage in phishing schemes and identity fraud schemes. Do not share your sensitive personal information unless you know that you are dealing with a trustworthy party/company.
- Be Very Wary of Health Products: You are not going to get a COVID-19 vaccine—or any other truly reliable treatment—from the internet. Sadly, regulators believe that scammers are preying on people’s fears and offering ineffective, even dangerous, cures.
- Verify Before Making Donations: Donating money to a worthy cause is a wonderful thing. The Georgia Consumer Protection Division wants to make sure that your donations go to trusted organizations and not scammers.
If you or your loved one was victimized by a coronavirus-related scam, please be sure to report the matter to state or federal regulators. If appropriate, you may also want to file a report with the police. From there, an experienced consumer protection lawyer can help you navigate the legal claims process.
We are Leaders in Court and in the Community
At MG Law, we are committed to protecting the rights and interests of our clients. To set up a free, completely confidential consultation with an experienced attorney, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm now. With offices in Conyers, Covington, and Atlanta, we represent clients throughout the entire region, including in McDonough, Porterdale, Stockbridge, Social Circle, Decatur, and Lithonia.