Five Coronavirus Scams Impacting Disabled People
Anyone can be susceptible to scams, but there are some coronavirus scams that are definitely impacting disabled people which are discussed in the video and transcript blog below.
Hi, I'm Stephanie Woodward with Disability Details talking to you about Disability Rights, access, and life, and today we're talking about five coronavirus scams that are impacting disabled people.
Before I get too deep into this I want to note that the date of this recording (and writing) is April 19, 2020. It's important for me to note that because in the time of coronavirus things are changing quickly, so by the time you are watching (or reading) this, things may have changed so please if you're watching this at a later date just check to see if this information is still applicable to you.
1. IRS Scams
The first scam I'm gonna talk about is IRS scams. At this point many people have already received their economic impact payments or what some people call stimulus checks. A lot of people have received $1,200 but each person may receive a different amount depending on their own income. If you have not yet received your economic impact payment you are not alone. There are many people who are still waiting. It's important to remember that if you have filed your taxes in 2018 or 2019, or if you receive SSI or SSD, you do not have to do anything in order to receive your economic impact payment. However if you receive SSI or SSD and you have children under the age of 17 you will need to fill out a quick form on the IRS website in order to receive the additional $500 per child. To fill out that form you need to go to irs.gov and click "non-filers enter payment info here." The IRS website is the only website that you need to use in order to enter more information, if you need to enter more information.
You may receive an email or phone calls that seem very official- they may say that they're from the IRS and that they need more information from you such as personal information like your social security number or your bank account in order to process your payment faster. These are not real - they are scams. The IRS is not going to email you or call you to ask you for personal information and if you receive an email or call or any other communication like this you should not share your personal information. Delete those emails and hang up on those calls. They're not real. Do not share your personal information with anyone who is asking for your personal information claiming to be the IRS. The only way you should be sharing information like this is through the IRS website which is IRS.gov.
2. Social Security Scams
The second scam I want to talk about is Social Security scams. Some people have been receiving letters claiming to be from the Social Security Administration threatening to cut off their benefits unless you call a specific phone number and share your personal information in order to continue your Social Security benefits, whether it's SSI or SSD. These letters are not real. These are scam letters to get you to call a fake phone number in order to have you share your personal information. Sometimes these letters threaten beneficiaries with jail time or fees unless you provide credit card information or buy gift cards and share the gift card information electronically. The Social Security Administration would never make these kinds of threats or require payments through gift cards. In fact, as of March 17th, 2020 all local Social Security offices have closed due to coronavirus concerns and Social Security employees have begun working remotely. Social Security will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security income payments due to the current coronavirus pandemic. Any communication that you're receiving or that you might receive that is threatening to do so is a scam, whether it's via text, email, phone call, in person, or otherwise, so please do not fall for it.
3. Medicare and Medicaid Scams
The third scam is Medicare and Medicaid scams. Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries have been receiving calls and emails from individuals claiming to be Medicare or Medicaid representatives asking for their personal information. Medicare or Medicaid would never call for email you from an individual account asking you for your personal information. In fact a Medicare or Medicaid representative would never do any of the following:
call you to ask you to verify your Medicare or Medicaid number,
call you to try to sell you anything,
promise you something in exchange for sharing your Medicare or Medicaid number
visit you at your home
call you to enroll you in a Medicare or Medicaid program unless you called them first
If you receive a call or an email from someone claiming to be a Medicare or Medicaid or representative, hang up or delete the email.
4. Medical or Personal Supplies Scams
The fourth scam I want to talk about is medical or personal supplies scams. There are a lot of scammers setting up fake shops online claiming to sell supplies that are in high demand whether it be face masks or other personal protective equipment or other important equipment that you may need for your own personal health – it could be wipes, it could be gloves, it could be incontinent supplies, or other supplies that are in high demand and low supply. These scammers take consumers money and when it's time to deliver the supplies - never deliver. It's important to be careful when buying from suppliers online that you have not dealt with in the past. Whenever possible try to check reviews to see if they're legitimate. See how long that business has been providing supplies, see if they have reviews that go back more than a week, if it's on Facebook marketplace try to message other people who claim to have bought from that individual to see if the experience was legitimate. There's never guarantee when buying online from someone you haven't done business with in the past, but try to do your research before just clicking and hoping for the best.
5. Testing, Treatment, and Cure Scams
The last category of scams is testing, treatment, and cure scams. There are some companies and individuals claiming to sell at-home testing kits for coronavirus whether it's via email, phone, or going door to door. It's important to remember that at this time there are no FDA approved at-home test kits. Some scammers will tell you that your Medicare or Medicaid will cover the price of these testing kits but because there are no FDA approved kits your Medicare or Medicaid will not cover the price of the kit, that means that the scammer may not only steal your Medicare or Medicaid number but they'll also be footing you with the bill for a fake test. Other scams may come via email by saying that the World Health Organization is offering free at-home tests if only you pay the $9.99 shipping and handling. Again this is a scam.
There are also scammers claiming to sell treatments or cures for coronavirus. As of this recording and writing there are no vaccines or cures for coronavirus, so please do not fall for these scams.
How to Avoid Scams
Now that we've talked about the scams, how can you avoid them? Here's a few tips for avoiding scammers.
If you get a robo call hang up immediately.
If someone you don't know calls you and asks you for personal information such as your social security number, your bank information, your insurance information, or anything else, hang up.
If you get emails that seem fishy, don't click on the links – delete them.
If you get texts that come in from numbers that you don't recognize, don't click on the links - delete them. This is important because some scammers are sending around texts that look official and seem very scary - the text may say something like "someone you've been in contact with has tested positive for coronavirus click here to find out how you can be tested next." That is a scam text. Do not click on the link, delete it immediately.
What to Do if You’ve Been a Victim of a Coronavirus Scam
What should you do if you feel like you may have been a victim of a coronavirus scam? First, you could contact your state's Attorney General's office. Second, you can contact the United States Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud. Third, if you believe you experienced an internet-based crime, then you should go to ic3.gov. Fourth, if you believe that you experienced a Social Security scam then you should contact the Office of the Inspector General.
Is there anything else you should do?
Yes. Please share this information with your family and friends, especially your family and friends that may not have access to the internet, so they may not be able to get this information from anywhere else.
If this information has been helpful for you, please like this blog and share it with others.