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Tips to Avoid Coronavirus Financial Scams

03/10/2020

Harrisburg, PA - As the nation continues to respond to the coronavirus (COVID-19), the Department of Banking and Securities is urging Pennsylvanians to be wary of potential financial scams trying to take advantage of the situation.

“Consumers should be on alert for increased fraud during major events such as the outbreak of COVID-19,” said Acting Secretary Richard Vague. “Scams are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and scam artists are taking advantage of people, making every attempt to separate you from your hard-earned money.”

Consumers should be vigilant about protecting their finances and should not share financial or other sensitive information with anyone contacting you unsolicited. Consumers and businesses cannot afford to take every financial opportunity or transaction at face value.

“We all wish we could expect everyone to act with integrity and credibility, but too many scam artists prey on our good intentions to trust,” said Acting Secretary Vague. “Scam artists are manipulative and all of us must remain ever vigilant. With a few simple precautions, you can help detect and prevent this from happening to you or a loved one.”

Frequent characteristics of scams include:

  • Sense of urgency and limited time offers. Scammers will attempt to prompt you into immediate action and catch you off guard. No government agency will call you asking for payment or take punitive action against you if you don’t act quickly.

  • Payment with wire transfer or gift cards. Once information is provided, the money is essentially gone and you cannot get it back.

  • Secrecy and the need to not tell anyone. Never make a decision without consulting a credible and trustworthy source.   
     
  • Low or minimal risks with guaranteed high returns. Be cautious of any offer that guarantees a high rate of return with little or no risk or does not disclose risk.

  • Unsolicited offers, including social media avenues. A new post on your Facebook wall, a tweet mentioning you, a direct message, an email, a text, a phone call, or any other unsolicited communication regarding an investment “opportunity” related to coronavirus (COVID-19).

Pennsylvanians can protect themselves by actively exercising caution. If you have received an unsolicited phone call, when in doubt, hang up. Never provide credit card or other financial or personal information as part of an unsolicited phone call and think twice if you’re being pressured to act now.

Pennsylvanians should know the red flags of potential fraud and scams:

  • Has someone contacted you unexpectedly? If you weren’t expecting a phone call or didn’t initiate the contact, it should be a red flag.

  • Have they promised you something? If they’re offering you something that seems too good to be true, it’s a red flag.

  • Have they asked you to do something? Are they asking you for money or account information? If you didn’t initiate the conversation, don’t provide it.

At this time, the department has had no reported cases of coronavirus (COVID-19) financial scams. Anyone can contact DoBS at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-722-2657 to ask questions or file complaints about financial transactions, companies, or products. If you believe you have fallen victim to a scam, contact local law enforcement.

Find the latest information on the coronavirus here.

MEDIA CONTACT: Meredith Noll - 717-214-4759, DoBSComm@PA.gov

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