We are living through unprecedented times (at least for the last century or so of American history), but that hasn’t stopped scammers from taking advantage. As with other national disasters, scammers capitalize on the headlines to steal your money, personal information and install malware on your device. We all need to beware of Covid-19 scams
As the oldest community bank in Bucks County, The First has weathered other hard times with our customers. We are here for you during the Coronavirus pandemic, too. From meeting your everyday banking needs to keeping you informed, you can always contact us for help. Here is a run-down of popular COVID-19 scams and how you can protect yourself.
Economic Impact Payments
The IRS has started to issue Economic Impact Payments to eligible U.S. residents. If you haven’t received yours yet, check the eligibility requirements here and check your payment status here. You can also follow the IRS on Twitter for the latest alerts and updates.
Scammers have been exploiting the confusion around the rollout of these payments. As always, the IRS will never call to ask for sensitive personal and/or bank account information. In fact, the IRS isn’t even taking calls right now, as call center employees are staying at home under social distancing guidelines. So if someone calls you claiming to be from the IRS, hang up immediately. The same rule applies to digital communications:
The IRS doesn’t initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information.
On a local level, The Pennsylvania Department of Revenue is offering a variety of relief measures for taxpayers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more here.
Working From Home
With all 67 counties in Pennsylvania under a Stay at Home order, many office workers have transitioned to a work-from-home setup for the first time. This leaves businesses here in Bucks County and across the state more vulnerable to network attacks and phishing emails. Here’s what you can do to protect yourself and the company you work for (or own).
In 2019, roughly 80% of all successful cyber-attacks involved a phishing email. These attacks almost always have significant financial and/or legal impacts on the victim. Unfortunately, the number of cyber-attacks is expected to grow considerably over the next five years. In the last month alone, there’s been a significant percentage increase in the number of daily phishing attacks across the globe. Most of these attacks target small business owners and the elderly.
The good news is that the rules for combating cyber-attacks haven’t changed with the advent of a pandemic. Everyone should learn how to identify a phishing email. If you’re a business owner, one of the most impactful things you can do to strengthen your security is to start and maintain a security awareness program that teaches employees the dangers of phishing emails (as well as other types of attacks) and how to identify them. Even small business owners can reach out to security vendors and purchase relatively cheap access to sophisticated security training materials and programs.
If you are an employee working from home for the first time, take the time to review this comprehensive article on phishing scams from the FTC. This will help you protect your personal devices and data as well as your company laptop.
Phishing emails work because they successfully elicit an emotional response from the victim. They convince you that there is something that requires your urgent attention and they give you a hyperlink to click on in order to address it. Be suspicious of any email trying to get you to click on a link.
According to the website for the PA Attorney General, the definition of price gouging is:
“Under rules governing a disaster emergency, companies and vendors are prohibited from charging a price for consumer goods that exceeds 20% of the average price to which those goods/services were sold 7 days preceding the date of emergency declaration.”
As of this writing, AG Shapiro’s office has received more than 4,000 consumer complaints related to price gouging. If you encounter price gouging on in-demand items such as toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other cleaning supplies or paper products, you can submit an online complaint.
Check the latest Coronavirus Updates from the PA AG here.
COVID-19 Testing and Treatment
Scammers are also taking advantage of people’s fears by selling at-home tests and cures. Currently, no valid at-home tests are available and a vaccine is still at least 18 months away. There are no known working cures on the market either.
If you are experiencing COVID-19 symptoms and are concerned about the cost of testing and/or treatment, here’s what AG Shapiro’s website says:
- If you live in PA, medically-necessary COVID-19 testing will be covered for everyone without any out-of-pocket costs. If you’re not feeling well, ask your doctor if you should have a test.
- If you have health insurance through a major provider or a government plan, you’re covered for COVID-19 treatment. It will be free (or very low cost). Get treatment if you’re sick!
- If your insurance isn’t covering COVID-19 testing or treatment, or you have any other concerns about your insurance or healthcare provider, contact our Health Care Section at 1-877-888-4877.
Additional State and Federal Resources for COVID-19
- Sign up for emails from your Bucks County congressperson. Not sure who your representative is? Enter your zip code here to find out.
- Bucks County Coronavirus (COVID-19) Information
- Responding to COVID-19 in Pennsylvania
- Coronavirus Updates from the PA Attorney General
- COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips from the FCC
- The U.S. Department of Justice Coronavirus Response
- Interview with the head of the FBI’s Financial Crimes Section
- Coronavirus: What the FTC is Doing
- Interview with PA Attorney General Josh Shapiro
- Governor Wolf’s Statewide Response to COVID-19
- PA Department of Health
- Bucks County Health Department
The First is here for you during Coronavirus
As a longtime community bank, we have a personal connection to the businesses and customers we serve. While we are operating by drive-thru only right now, our lobby is available by appointment and you can also reach us by phone during normal banking hours. Read our Coronavirus updates here and don’t hesitate to reach out if we can be of assistance to you during this difficult time.