COVID-19

Since there has been such a major life shift because of this pandemic, I felt we need to have information in one place for our followers.  There will be two portions to this page.  First is about the virus – WE’RE NOT THE EXPERTS on the medical side so that part will be websites you can go to for information.  We’re trying to take away from the “talking heads” expert approach and only encouraging people to get their information from:  The Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO) and Riverstone Health (Billings).  The second part which we are more familiar with is the Scams eminating from the pandemic.  This portion will be from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s office (Montana) and most recently the Department of Public Health and Human Services  (Montana DPHHS).

COVID-19 information from health care professionals:

Center for Disease Control web site.

World Health Organization web site.

Riverstone Health – https://riverstonehealth.org/

Coronavirus Scams – Tips from the FTC

Where there is fear, there are usually scammers ready to take advantage. These tips from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will help you steer clear of Covid-19 Scams.

Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.

The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your region. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.

Here are some tips from the FTC to help you keep the scammers at bay:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. It could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.

  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment, or cure claims for the Coronavirus, ask yourself: if there’s been a medical breakthrough, would you be hearing about it for the first time through an ad or sales pitch?

  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

  • Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

Current scams the FTC is seeing during the Coronavirus outbreak:

  • Undelivered goods: Online sellers claim they have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. You place an order, but you never get your shipment. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name — including scammers.

What to do: Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction. If you’re concerned about the pricing of products in your area, contact the Montana Office of Consumer Protection under the Department of Justice at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or visit http://dojmt.gov/consumer.

  • Fake charities: When a major health event — like the Coronavirus — happens, you might be looking for ways to help. Scammers use the same events to take advantage of your generosity. Some scammers use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving. Money lost to bogus charities means less donations to help those in need.

What to do: When you give, pay safely by credit card — never by gift card or wire transfer. Use these organizations to help you research charities:

  • The Internal Revenue Service maintains an online database where you can check whether an organization is a registered charity and if your donation will be tax-deductible at www.irs.gov/charities-and-nonprofits

  • The BBB Wise Giving Alliance (give.org), Charity Navigator (charitynavigator.org), CharityWatch (charitywatch.org) and GuideStar (guidestar.org) provide many resources on charitable organizations, including ratings, reviews, and tax & financial data.

  • You can report suspected charity frauds to the Federal Trade Commission (online at www.ftc.gov/complaint or at 877-382-4357) and the Montana Office of Consumer Protection under the Department of Justice at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or visit http://dojmt.gov/consumer.

Fake emails, texts and phishing: Scammers use fake emails or texts to get you to share valuable personal information — like account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords. They use your information to steal your money, your identity, or both. They also use phishing emails to get access to your computer or network. If you click on a link, they can install ransomware or other programs that can lock you out of your data. Scammers often use familiar company names or pretend to be someone you know. Here’s a real-world example of a scam where phishers pretend to be the World Health Organization (WHO).

  • Fake emails may have the logo of the World Health Organization on it, but other clues like grammatical errors and typos should raise suspicion that it is a scam.

  • Other scammers have used real information to infect computers with malware. For example, malicious websites used the real Johns Hopkins University interactive dashboard of Coronavirus infections and deaths to spread password-stealing malware.

Robocalls: Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes.

What to do: Hang up. Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.

Misinformation and rumors: Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified.

 What to do: Before you pass on any messages, and certainly before you pay someone or share your personal information, do some fact checking by contacting trusted sources. For information related to the Coronavirus, visit: usa.gov/coronavirus. There you’ll find links to federal, state and local government agencies.

More Resources:

FTC Information:
To learn more about Coronavirus scams, visit:

  • Coronavirus Scams: What the FTC is Doing at ftc.gov/coronavirus

Want more information on the latest scams the FTC is seeing or want to sign up for consumer alerts? Go to consumer.ftc.gov. If you come across any scams or suspicious claims, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

AARP Fraud Watch Network Information: 

If you’ve spotted a scam or think you may have been scammed,

  • call the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline at 1-877-908-3360 for information and guidance.

  • Sign up for Watchdog Alerts and access more information, resources and the Scam Tracker Map online at

    www.aarp.org/FraudWatchNetwork.

Montana Office of Consumer Protection Information:
You can report suspected scams to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection under the Department of Justice at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or visit http://dojmt.gov/consumer.

Avoiding Coronavirus Economic Impact Payment Scams – Tips from the IRS

Scammers are trying to cash in on government stimulus payments

The Internal Revenue Service is urging taxpayers to be on the lookout for a surge of calls and email phishing attempts about the Coronavirus, or COVID-19. These contacts can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft.

“We urge people to take extra care during this period. The IRS isn’t going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment or your refund faster,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig. “That also applies to surprise emails that appear to be coming from the IRS. Remember, don’t open them or click on attachments or links. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.”
Taxpayers should watch not only for phone calls and emails, but also text messages, websites and social media attempts that request money or personal information.

Don’t fall prey to Coronavirus tricks; retirees among targets

The IRS and its Criminal Investigation Division have seen a wave of new and evolving phishing schemes against taxpayers. In most cases, the IRS will deposit economic impact payments into the direct deposit account taxpayers previously provided on tax returns.

Those taxpayers who have previously filed but not provided direct deposit information to the IRS will be able to provide their banking information online to a newly designed secure portal on IRS.gov. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct deposit information, a check will be mailed to the address on file. Taxpayers should not provide their direct deposit or other banking information for others to input on their behalf into the secure portal.

The IRS also reminds retirees who don’t normally have a requirement to file a tax return that no action on their part is needed to receive their $1,200 economic impact payment. Seniors should be especially careful during this period.

The IRS reminds retirees – including recipients of Forms SSA-1099 and RRB-1099 − that no one from the agency will be reaching out to them by phone, email, mail or in person asking for any kind of information to complete their economic impact payment, also sometimes referred to as rebates or stimulus payments.
The IRS is sending these $1,200 payments automatically to retirees – no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive this.

The more you know about the process, the less likely you’re going to be tripped up by calls, text messages, or emails from scammers trying to steal your money or personal information.

Here’s what you need to know about the stimulus payments and how to avoid scams related to these payments.

Who will get money?

Adult U.S. residents that meet established income limits are eligible to receive money from the government. This includes:

Taxpayers – people who filed a federal tax return for 2018 or 2019.

Retirees – people who get Social Security, Railroad, or other retirement benefits.

Beneficiaries – people who get public benefits like SSDI, disability, or veterans’ benefits.

Non-filers – people who do not have to file a federal tax return, including people who made no income or made less than $12,200 (or $24,400 for married couples).

What to do to receive your payment:

Most people don’t have to do anything to get their money because the IRS will use the same payment method – direct deposit, Direct Express debit card, or paper check – used to send you your tax refund, Social Security, retirement, or other government benefits money. If the IRS doesn’t have your direct deposit information, you can go to the “Get My Payment” feature at irs.gov/coronavirus and let them know where to send your direct deposit.

If you don’t usually file a tax return, go to irs.gov/coronavirus to access the “Non-filer” portal and to figure out what, if anything, you have to do to claim your money.

To check on the status of your payment, you can now use the “Get My Payment” feature at irs.gov/coronavirus.

Avoiding Coronavirus Stimulus Payment Scams

Scammers are using these stimulus payments to try to rip people off. They might try to get you to pay a fee to get your stimulus payment. Or they might try to convince you to give them your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number.

Tips For Avoiding a Coronavirus Economic Impact Payment Scam:

• Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never in response to a call, text, or email.

• The IRS will not contact you to “verify” your account Information. Do not give anyone your personal information to “sign-up” for your relief check. There is nothing to sign up for. Anyone calling to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, PayPal account, bank information or government benefits debit card account number is a scammer, plain and simple. Also be on the lookout for email phishing scams, where scammers pretend to be from the government and ask for your information as part of the “sign-up” process for the checks. Forward suspected scam emails to phishing@irs.gov.

• You don’t have to pay to get your stimulus money.

• The IRS will not send you a password to use online to access or verify your account.

• The IRS will not overpay and ask you to return money. That’s a fake check scam where criminals send official-looking checks for more than the stimulus amount of up to $1,200 for eligible adults and $500 per qualifying child. They then contact recipients and say they must transfer money or send prepaid debit cards to repay the overage.

• No one has early access to this money. Anyone that claims to is a scammer. The timeline for this process is not exact, but funds are currently going out and will continue over the next few weeks. Scammers are using the lack of detail to try to trick people into giving their personal information and money.

• The IRS will send a letter, via postal mail, 15 days after your payment is made, giving details and how to report failure to receive payment. Its website advises: “If a taxpayer is unsure they’re receiving a legitimate letter, the IRS urges taxpayers to visit IRS.gov first to protect against scam artists.”

The IRS reminds taxpayers that scammers may:

• Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.

• Ask the taxpayer to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.

• Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.

• Suggest that they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer’s behalf. This scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.

• Mail the taxpayer a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tell the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Reporting Coronavirus-related or other phishing attempts

Those who receive unsolicited emails, text messages or social media attempts to gather information that appear to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS, such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System (EFTPS), should forward it to phishing@irs.gov.

Taxpayers are encouraged not to engage potential scammers online or on the phone. Learn more about reporting suspected scams by going to the Report Phishing and Online Scams page on IRS.gov.

Official IRS information about the COVID-19 pandemic and economic impact payments can be found on the Coronavirus Tax Relief page on IRS.gov. The page is updated quickly when new information is available.

More Resources:

FTC Information:

To learn more about Coronavirus scams, visit:

• Coronavirus Scams: What the FTC is Doing at ftc.gov/coronavirus

Want more information on the latest scams the FTC is seeing or want to sign up for consumer alerts? Go to consumer.ftc.gov. If you come across any scams or suspicious claims, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Fraud Watch Network Information:

If you’ve spotted a scam or think you may have been scammed, call the AARP Fraud Watch Network helpline at 1-877-908-3360 for information and guidance. Sign up for Watchdog Alerts and access more information, resources and the Scam Tracker Map online at www.aarp.org/FraudWatchNetwork.

Montana Office of Consumer Protection Information:

You can report suspected scams to the Montana Office of Consumer Protection under the Department of Justice at (800) 481-6896 or (406) 444-4500, or visit http://dojmt.gov/consumer.

 

IRS issues warning about Coronavirus-related scams; watch out for schemes tied to economic impact payments

https://www.irs.gov/newsroom/irs-issues-warning-about-coronavirus-related-scams-watch-out-for-schemes-tied-to-economic-impact-payments

Audio Files of Scammy Calls About the Coronavirus

 

Federal Trade Commission web site.

Consumer Protection Division, Montana Attorney General web site.

DPHHS – COVID-19 memo.

AARP – Corona Virus web site.