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Positive social distancing observations and 7 tips to avoid COVID-19 fraud

Apr 08, 2020 | Thomas Smith


Worldwide, this pandemic will cause some level of loss of money or value. Here are a few positive observations and 11 tips to help avoid fraud related to COVID-19.

Student engineers looking closely at design

We are four weeks into this new normal of COVID-19. During this time period, all restaurants, movie theaters, entertainment venues, hair, massage, and nail salons have closed. Most retail has either reduced hours or closed altogether. All sporting events ranging from kids’ tee ball to March Madness have canceled. The Olympics have been postponed. Each day brings new developments, updates, and quarantine protocols.

In four weeks, our nation and world has learned to work from home with remote access. College students have returned home, school districts have shifted to an online platform. I cannot think of a single business owner, student, young professional, athlete, stay at home mom/dad, employee, teacher, musician, artist, pastor, parishioner, sole proprietor, or retiree whose life has not been materially impacted by this pandemic. No sector of society has been spared.

It occurs to me that every single person in the world will lose some amount of money or value from this pandemic. Not since World War II has the US retooled like we are doing now; and not since the Spanish Flu of 1918 has the US seen a pandemic.

As I write this, my high school son, and two college sons are doing “online curriculum” for their respective course of studies at my dining room table, and my oldest son, who works for a public accounting firm, is performing an audit remotely from his laptop in our kitchen. I am working remotely from my home office as well, while my wife is shepherding us 5 boys. Having my entire family with us, including my single adult kids, has been a blessing. I know they would rather be attending high school classes, at college, or in Dallas, but given our circumstances, we are actually having great quality time with family dinners, board games, and stimulating discussion.

Here are my “glass half full” observations so far:

  1. Getting the family together for an extended time is kind of like “holiday”…only it isn’t.
  2. When I do venture out, a smile and a wave is well received.
  3. We have a renewed interest in puzzles, board games, playing cards, and backyard activities.
  4. Golf is one of the only remaining acceptable outdoor games that can be played with non family members. Even though I am not very good…I play. Walking with a push cart has never been this fun!
  5. My credit card bill has never been this low….which is good, because my income is down.
  6. Gasoline is cheap… but I have nowhere to go.
  7. Mowing the yard is fun again. Exercise.
  8. Working from home takes real discipline.
  9. Our dogs are getting much more attention.
  10. Personal grooming standards have lessened.
  11. Everything is online…exercise, work, sales, customer service, entertainment, education, finances, medicine, advice, religion, therapy, fraud…

Speaking of fraud, I am sure that as this pandemic evolves into the next four weeks, our society will adapt, and when it ends we will resume with some modifications.  It occurs to me that there are a host of online methods people are using to take advantage of us during this stressful and confusing time. There are reports of increased fraudulent activity related to COVID-19, including false virus treatments and work at home schemes, as well as fake charities and health related products. We have even seen some fraudsters promote vaccinations and home test kits, and bogus emails claiming to be the CDC or a local health authority.

Seven tips to help keep you safe from COVID-19 Scams and Fraud:

  1. Do not accept robocalls or phone solicitations.  Better to even hang up if you take one accidentally. 
  2. Do not respond to texts or emails regarding “checks from the government”. Stimulus payments under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARE) are administered by the US Treasury, and will be distributed in the coming weeks. 
  3. Do not share your personal, banking, or investment account information to any unknown source if you did not initiate the communication. These institutions will NEVER ask you for your personal information, including, but not limited to PIN, Social Security number, account number, etc. 
  4. Never click on hyperlinks on an inbound email unless you are 100% certain that the sender is legitimate. If you can, go to the site directly, rather than clicking a link. Fraudsters are amazingly accurate in designing emails that resemble legitimate businesses. These deceptive hyperlinks could invoke malware or a computer virus. 
  5. There is presently no cure for the COVID-19. Experts warn that we are, at best, months away from a vaccine or cure. Disregard ANY such email, advertisement, pop up, phone call, or television ad. 
  6. The CDC, or your local health authority will not email or call you directly. In addition, these entities do not need your money, and will not ask you for donations. If the CDC, or any local health authority wants to reach you, they will send out a public announcement over the traditional news channels, newspapers, and digital media to be disseminated to the general public. 
  7. The IRS does NOT initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages, or social media. IRS correspondence is delivered via US Mail. If you receive an email or telephone call from the IRS offering help with the CARE act, it is fraud. Report it to the appropriate authorities.

The last four weeks, and the next several weeks will alter our nation and world irrevocably. We are just now understanding what it will look like after we get through this pandemic. That said, it doesn’t have to be all bad news. There is some good that will come from this event. I would be interested in hearing your perspective on the positive outcomes of Coronavirus. Contact me.

Stay safe, wash your hands, and remember….6 feet apart!


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