By Robert L. Mues   |   April 18th, 2020

Coronavirus Pandemic Brings Out Scam Artists Who Prey On People’s $1200 Stimulus Checks

coronavirus pandemic scam artists scammersCybercriminals, slimy marketers and scammers are hard at work during the Coronavirus pandemic.  They are hard at work trying to pry on frightened consumers, steal personal information and even blackmail folks. In addition, they are devising ways to try to fraudulently obtain peoples $1200 stimulus checks.  We all need to be vigilant and be on “high alert”. “This is a breeding ground for scam artists. It’s kind of the perfect storm with all of the tragedies that we have going on across the country and across the world,” said John North, president and CEO of the Dayton and the Miami Valley.

Fear and confusion surrounding the coronavirus pandemic  as well as people’s desire to help others, creates a fertile ground for scammers , said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. Yost warns Ohioans to ignore all the online advertisements hawking cures for the coronavirus and emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other expert sources with special advice or information about the coronavirus. To download the Ohio Attorney General’s brochure about consumer scams click here.

COVID-19 Extortion Scams

The cybersecurity company Sophos has even identified a huge increase in COVID-19 email extortion scams. They include threatening to infect the target’s family with Coronavirus if they didn’t contribute money to a fake World Health Organization (WHO) fundraising campaign. Another one circulating around is a sales pitch to buy a $37 video purporting to reveal secret insider information about how to survive the pandemic with confidential information from a military source.

Montgomery County Sheriff Rob Streck said people have contacted the office describing calls from scammers purporting to be from the Government asking for personal information related to enrolling them to receive federal economic stimulus money. “The federal government … is not going to call you on the phone and ask for your bank accounts or tell you to bring money somewhere so you can receive these checks,” Streck said. “The scam artists are good at what they do.”

Some scammers are saying they will for an upfront fee reserve a spot in line for COVID-19 testing or treatment. Others, are offering supposedly free supplies with the catch that there’s “some sort of shipping or handling charge and the victim needs to provide their credit card number to pay it. In addition, calls claiming to offer a “Biohazard Deep Cleaning Agent” to “Test the level of the germs and viruses” in people’s homes and to eradicate any unhealthy bacteria. The products, of course, are never delivered.

File Taxes As Soon As Possible During The Coronavirus Pandemic To Prevent Scam Artists Filing Phony Tax Returns

While the tax filing deadlines have been extended due to the coronavirus pandemic, John North recommends that taxpayers should go ahead and complete their returns as soon as possible – especially if a refund is due. “There are still those scam artists  that are out there that are filing phony taxes on your behalf,” he said. “This is something that happens year after year.” So, use a reputable tax preparer or CPA to complete and file your returns sooner than later.

The Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department, as a public service, has recently put a chart together listing many of the common scams to be aware of in this COVID-19 shadow. Here it is:

public service scam chart

We all need to be hypervigilant looking to ward of these cybercriminals and scammers!

Do business with “trusted” experienced businesses that have built strong positive reputations. Never provide your personal information to email solicitations or people who call your phone, no matter how persuasive they sound! If something comes your way and it is unusual and your head just tells you that something about it just doesn’t sound right, DO NOT GO FURTHER. Just ignore it. Report any scams to your local Sherriff’s Department. Legitimate advice is available free on the CDC website which you can access by clicking here. Remember the old adage of “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is” likely applies – run away from it! It is likely is a scam of some sort!

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About The Author: Robert L. Mues
Attorney Robert "Chip" Mues has been focusing his legal practice throughout Southwest Ohio primarily in divorce and family law matters since 1978. Chip is passionate about family law and has proudly published the Ohio Family Law Blog since 2007. In addition, he is the managing partner of Holzfaster, Cecil, McKnight & Mues. To learn more about him or the law firm, visit the firm's website at Appointments are available in person, over the phone or by Zoom. Call us at 937 293-2141.

BEWARE: Cybercriminals are Trying New Scams In this Coronavirus (COVID-19) Era
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