COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

Many COVID-19 Vaccine Vials

As the new Coronavirus vaccines begin to roll out, many Americans are chomping at the bit to get in line. Fear of contracting the virus can cloud judgement, and scammers are taking advantage of this vulnerability. As you wait for your opportunity to get vaccinated, please be aware of COVID-19 vaccine scams that are making the rounds. We will tell you what to look for so that you don’t become a victim.

How To Spot COVID-19 Vaccine Scams

While we wait our turn to receive the Coronavirus vaccine, we have to keep our eyes open to possible scams. Here are a few guidelines to follow in order to avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.

  • Anyone claiming to offer early access to the vaccine is a scam. If you receive a text, call, email or even a solicitor at your door who claims to have this power, disregard it. No one has the ability to offer early access. 
  • You can’t pay to get your name on “the list”. Everyone has to follow the same rules, so if someone asks you to pay to get on a list, it’s a scam. 
  • You shouldn’t have to pay for the vaccine. Insurance should cover the vaccine due to the pandemic being a public health emergency. 
  • No one involved in the vaccination process, such as a private insurance company, will call and ask for personal information. If you receive a call or email asking you to provide your Social Security number or any other sensitive, personal information, this is an extreme red flag. Never provide personal information to unsolicited parties. 

In order to receive the vaccine as quickly as possible, stay informed on the procedures and guidelines in your area. All of the information needed will be provided by your state and local government. Sources outside of the government who try to deviate from official plans are very likely COVID-19 vaccine scams. Please stay safe and report any scamming attempts to the Federal Trade Commission.

Replacing A Lost Or Stolen Social Security Card

Man holding an empty brown wallet

If you’ve ever misplaced or had your wallet stolen, you know what a pain it can be to replace all of the items. One of the most important documents that many people carry in their wallet, a Social Security card, will take some time to replace if misplaced. You should never carry your Social Security card with you (unless you know you will need it that day). However, if your wallet does become compromised with your card inside, here are the steps you should take in replacing a lost or stolen Social Security card.

Time Is Of The Essence

The faster you act when learning that your Social Security card has been stolen, the less time a thief will have to cause you harm. You should immediately call your local police department and file a police report. In addition, you need to call the Social Security Administration (SSA) to request a replacement SS card. The SSA can be reached at 1-800-772-1213.

Another important step is to visit and ensure that you have claimed your ‘My SSA’ profile. This account will allow you to request a replacement card along with many other benefits such as changing your address. 

Applying For A Replacement Social Security Card

If you meet certain requirements, you may be able to obtain a replacement SS card online through the SSA website. You can view the requirements here. If you don’t meet the requirements, you will need to provide certain documentation along with completing an application. Here are the steps you need to take in order to be prepared for applying for a replacement card:

  • You will need to verify your age, identity and citizenship. The full details on the documents you will need can be found at the Social Security Administration website.
  • Print and fill out an application for a Social Security card.
  • Take your completed application along with the necessary documents to the SSA. All documents must be originals. You can find your nearest SSA office using their office locator tool. Beware that not all Social Security Administration offices are Card Centers, so not all offices will be able to replace your card. Call to ensure that the office you plan to visit is a Card Center.

If you lose your card, don’t panic. The SSA provides three card replacements per year, free of charge. You are entitled to ten free card replacements over your lifetime. 

Replacing your card doesn’t clear you of possible identity theft though, so you may want to consider putting a credit freeze or alert on your credit reports. You should also consider signing up with an Identity Theft Restoration service, such as ReclaimMyID. If your identity is stolen, ReclaimMyID will restore your identity to 100% of what it was pre-theft. You will save time and money as well as having the peace of mind that someone has your back. 

Replacing a lost or stolen Social Security card can be a bit of a process, but hopefully you now know what to expect. Once you receive your new card, store it at home in a secure place instead of carrying it with you!

Beware Of Holiday Charity Scams

Woman holding small Christmas gift with both hands

During the holidays, many of us find ourselves in the spirit of giving. Along with spoiling our friends and family with gifts, we often enjoy donating to charity at the end of the year. When it comes to helping charity, the more the merrier! However, there are many scammers who imitate legitimate charities and would love to take your money instead. You must beware of holiday charity scams when you go to submit your much needed donations.

How To Protect Against Charity Scams

In order to avoid becoming a victim of a charity scam, there are a few rules you should follow.

  • Always do your research on a charity before giving any money. A website such as Charity Navigator will allow you to vet a charity before giving. This website also allows you to donate to the charity directly so that you know your money is going to the right place. If you have a charity you already love donating to, make sure you are visiting their official website. You should never donate through an email or text from an unrecognized or unvetted source.
  • Legitimate charities will gladly take your donation at any time. Any charity that rushes you to give money should throw up an immediate red flag. It’s true that many charities could benefit from having more money around the holidays. However, a legitimate charity may encourage you to donate, but never in a pushy way.
  • Another red flag is when a “charity” asks you to pay with cash, gift cards, wire transfer or any form of cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. This is how scammers accept payment because it isn’t as easy to track.

When you’re in the mood to donate some of your hard-earned money to a worthy charity, beware of holiday charity scams. As long as you’re careful, your generosity will surely go a long way this holiday season.

Safely Learning From Home

teacher virtually teaching children through laptop

Coronavirus has brought a variety of changes to our everyday lives. Masks, social distancing, working from home. Many children have had their routines upended as well, having to go to school online. Every state and county adhere to different policies, but most kids have experienced remote learning at some point over the last 8 months. With this new norm comes new technology and new dangers that you may not be familiar with. Safely learning from home will be accomplished by understanding where possible dangers might lie and how to combat them.

What Is Remote Learning?

Also called distance learning, remote learning is the act of learning in an arena which isn’t face-to-face. Most distance learning takes place at home, over the internet. With the need to quarantine and social distance due to Coronavirus, distance learning became a way for kids to still go to school. 

If your child is enrolled in remote learning, their school should provide you with guidelines for both students and parents to follow. Every school is different, so you should take the time to read over all policies and guidelines.

How Do I Protect My Child?

The first step to keeping your child safe is to know what to look for and what not to do. 

  • Never sign up for any website or app with a personal e-mail address. Your child should be provided with an e-mail address from the school or county.
  • Always use a unique, strong password for every login that is required of your child. Never share login information with anyone. 
  • You should never add any unnecessary personal information to the profile section of any website, system or app.
  • Ensure that your child knows not to interact with anyone online that they don’t know. This includes not accepting unsolicited messages, phone calls, texts, files or screen sharing from people they don’t know personally. Your children should never download any files from unknown sources.
  • If your child is required to use a specific VLE (Virtual Learning Environment), take time to go through the system with them. This will allow you both to become familiar with how things work. You can also take this time to let them know what not to do. This goes for any app or system that your child is required to use. 
  • Always keep your computer’s operating system and anti-virus software up-to-date. Updates will often have patches to combat the latest security threats. Without these updates you may be susceptible to new dangers.

Distance or remote learning looks like it will become more and more common in the future. If you use the information above to your advantage, your child will be safely learning from home with no issues. 

Your Personal Information Has Been Exposed

Padlock sitting on a laptop

Whether you realize it or not, information is floating around us constantly. It could be news or it could be the credit card number of a person in the coffee shop with you. Every time we log in to a website, or sign up for a newsletter, we are sending information. Information can fall into the wrong hands. You may accidentally provide it to a scammer, someone might steal it or someone might buy it from the dark web. If you use the internet as much as most Americans, chances are your personal information has been exposed.

You may have heard the term “data breach” or “data leak” on the news. You may have even heard about a significant one, such as the Capital One, Equifax or Marriott breaches. Unfortunately, these information leaks or hacks are becoming all too common. All of us have a credit file with Equifax and most of us have stayed at a Marriott property (they own much more than just the Marriott brand). So, there’s a very good chance that our information was leaked in one of these breaches. Maybe you got lucky and you weren’t a victim of these two leaks, but what about all of the others and the others to come? Eventually it will happen (if it hasn’t already) and most everyone will become a victim of identity theft. 

Monitoring and Recovery When Your Personal Information Has Been Exposed

Due to the likeliness that your personal information has been exposed, you need to be proactive in searching for possible fraudulent activity. Here are some tips on what to look for and what to do if you find something.

  • Monitor your financial accounts. In order to quickly spot identity theft, you need to monitor your financial accounts regularly (daily if possible). Your checking account, savings accounts and credit card statements need to be carefully monitored to spot anything unrecognizable. The faster you catch a discrepancy, the easier it is to remedy the situation.
  • Obtain and review your credit report. You can receive a free credit report from each of the three major credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion), once a year. So you should set a calendar reminder at three separate points in the year to obtain and review your credit report. For example, you could get TransUnion in March, Equifax in August and Experian in December. Once you obtain your report, you need to look for any suspicious activity. Any line of credit opened in your name will be listed. If you see something unrecognizable, contact the issuing institution immediately. You also should call the credit bureau you obtained the report from and request a credit freeze. A credit freeze will ensure that no lines of credit can be opened on your file without authorization from you. 
  • Sign up with an identity theft restoration service. If your identity is stolen (which we’ve said will most likely happen at some point), someone will have to put in the work to restore your identity. This can take hundreds of hours and cost thousands of dollars (on average). If you sign up with an identity theft restoration service such as ReclaimMyID, before you’re a victim, they will do all of the work to restore your identity. It will save you time and money. You’ll also have the peace of mind that someone has your back if you become a victim.

The internet is great, but it also has its downsides. You have the world’s information at your fingertips, but also your personal information has been exposed. Your information and your safety is important. Use these tips to your advantage for the inevitable day you will need them.  

Keeping Your Kids Safe On Social Media

Phone displaying TikTok laying in grass

The world is probably a lot different now than when you grew up. Every generation has had to go through the same realization. It can be difficult for parents to understand the inner-workings of their children’s lives. In today’s world, kids are trying to go viral on TikTok and Instagram while also documenting their daily lives through videos on Snapchat. While this all may seem like fun and games (and for them it is), it can be far too easy for someone with ill intentions to learn a lot about their lives. Therefore, in our technological age, parents, you must work on keeping your kids safe on social media. 

What Social Media Platforms Are Popular With Kids?

New social media platforms pop up all the time. Some of them never catch on, while some of them become huge. Newsflash: Facebook isn’t cool according to kids. If you want to know about all of the most popular platforms, Common Sense Media compiled a great list here. Below are some of the most popular platforms with kids.

  • TikTok – The slogan for TikTok is ‘Real Short Videos’. Basically, anyone can post videos up to a minute long which people can like, share and comment. For many kids, having a video which goes “viral” on TikTok is a badge of honor. However, the comments are where things can get creepy. TikTok is full of comments about a person’s body or other inappropriate things and many of its users are underage. 
  • Instagram – Instagram is an image and video app where you can document your life to your followers. Gaining a massive amount of followers can actually be a career, as you can become an “influencer”. Companies will pay popular Instagram celebrities to market their products to their followers. If your child starts to become popular, it could be very easy for someone with “power” to coerce them into compromising positions. 
  • Snapchat – Snapchat is an app where you can send pictures or videos directly to friends or post them to your story for anyone to see. After the “snap” is viewed, the media is supposedly deleted forever. There are many issues with Snapchat that should concern a parent. For one, the mystique of the media being temporary can make “sexting” seem less risky. A teen may feel that sending an inappropriate picture to someone is less dangerous because the snap will go away after it’s viewed. There are a few issues with this logic: the other person can take a screenshot (though Snapchat will notify the sender if this happens) and more importantly, the snaps aren’t actually deleted forever. Once data is sent, it’s never really gone. There have been instances where snaps have been recovered and no one knows exactly if or how Snapchat stores the data. 

Tips On Keeping Your Kids Safe

  • Keep your kids informed. The best safety measure is to be open with your children about the dangers of social media. Yes, there are predators out there. However, in addition to that, something that your child posts as a child could haunt them in the future. Employers are starting to search potential employees’ social media platforms before hiring. That image you posted 9 years earlier could keep you from landing your dream job.
  • Frequently check your child’s phone (randomly). You should know what apps your kids are currently using. However, you should check when they aren’t expecting it. It would be easy for a kid to delete an app and re-download it if they knew you were going to be inspecting their phone. 
  • Use parental controls on iOs or Android. Using the built in parental controls on iPhone or Android, you can block apps that aren’t intended for your child’s age range or even specific apps which you deem inappropriate. 

The apps that are popular with kids are always changing, so you have to stay up-to-date. Keeping your kids safe on social media is about staying informed and keeping them informed. 

Watch Out For COVID19 Contact Tracing Scams

girl wearing blue face mask

Our worlds are inundated with Coronavirus news and information. It is easy to zone out and let information go in one ear and out the other. However, when you don’t process all of the information directed at you, it’s possible to let your guard down. If you don’t watch out for COVID19 contact tracing scams, you could have your identity stolen before you even know it. 

What Is A Contact Tracer?

A contact tracer is an employee of a state’s health department. Contact tracers are charged with the task of tracking individuals who are infected with COVID19 and those they may have come into contact with. A contact tracer will notify individuals that they may have come in to contact with an infected individual and they also work to ensure the infected follow quarantining guidelines.

If you’ve recently taken a COVID19 test, a contact tracer may contact you to discuss your results or to inform you that someone you know has tested positive. Some of the information a legitimate contact tracer may ask for includes:

  • People/Places you have visited
  • Name/Address
  • Your health information

Anyone asking for anything above and beyond the information above should draw an immediate red flag. 

How To Spot A Contact Tracing Scam

If you are contacted by someone claiming to be a contact tracer with your state’s health department, listen very carefully to the information they ask you for. Below are a few ways to protect yourself from a fraudulent contact tracer.

  • Never give a contact tracer money. A legitimate contact tracer would never ask you for money. Also, a tip for avoiding scams in general: anyone asking you to pay in gift cards, cryptocurrency or money orders/wire transfers is most likely a scam.
  • Do not provide your bank account or credit card information. Contact tracers have no need for any of your financial information.
  • Your immigration status is irrelevant. If someone claiming to be a contact tracer mentions your status as a citizen, hang up the phone.
  • Never provide your Social Security number. Contact tracers do not need your Social Security number. In fact, you should never give your SS# to anyone who contacts you out of the blue. Only provide sensitive information to 100% trusted individuals/entities.
  • Never click a link in an email or text. You risk downloading a virus or malware to your computer or device.

If you keep an eye out for the warning signs mentioned in this article you’re doing your best to watch out for COVID19 contact tracing scams. With so many out of work, you really must keep your guard up because scammers are out in full force.   

Scams Involving Bitcoin Are Becoming More Popular

Stacks of Bitcoins

Cryptocurrency is an electronic form of money which has been on the rise for several years. The king of all cryptocurrency (as of now) is Bitcoin. ­At its height, one Bitcoin was worth almost $20 thousand. Well, scammers want a piece of this action and scams involving Bitcoin are becoming more popular. 

There are a few reasons why scammers would prefer to be paid in Bitcoin. First, the value of cryptocurrency fluctuates, like a stock. This gives the cryptocurrency the ability to grow in value. Second, cryptocurrency is completely digital, which affords the scammer almost complete privacy.

Scams Which May Ask You To Pay With Bitcoin

1. Chain Letter Scams. In this scam you will be asked to give money and then forward on to your friends or family. As the letter keeps getting forwarded and more people donate, you are promised that you will make more and more money. You’re almost assuredly throwing your money away with zero return on that investment. Many of these chain letter scams will ask you to pay in Bitcoin. Elderly individuals need to be especially careful with scams of this nature. 

2. Blackmail. You may receive a message from someone indicating that they have damaging information about you which will be released unless you pay up with Bitcoin. Oftentimes they will put as much pressure on you as possible to get you to pay quickly. Report these types of scams to the police, Federal Trade Commission and FBI. These types of scams fall under extortion and can be criminally prosecuted.

3. Business Investment Scams. One rule of thumb: If someone guarantees you will make money, it’s a scam. It’s impossible to guarantee you will make money because an investment is always a bit of a gamble. If someone offers you the ability to invest in a business with a guarantee of making money in return, don’t give them a dime – in Bitcoin or any kind of currency. 

Cryptocurrency may be the way of the future, but it is already the way of today for some scammers. Scams involving Bitcoin are becoming more popular, so keep your eyes open. 

Scammers Want Your Coronavirus Stimulus Check

Masked woman at computer

Times are tough. Millions of Americans found themselves abruptly unemployed and wondering how to make ends meet. Thankfully, the government is set to send relief checks to relieve a bit of financial stress. Unfortunately, scammers want your Coronavirus stimulus check too. Over 13,000 complaints of COVID-19 related scams have already been reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Through April 7, $9.59 million in total fraud loss has been reported. You should learn the warning signs to look for In order to avoid being swindled. 

The IRS will never call, text or e-mail to ask for personal information. 

The same goes for your bank. If you receive a call or message asking for personal information, hang up. Scammers are using this time of financial stress to prey on Americans in need of this assistance. Some of your personal information may have already been obtained, possibly via the dark web, and one more piece of information could give them access to your money. If you want to double check the validity of the call or message, make note of the institution and caller then hang up. You can then call that institution directly and inform them of the call you received. If it was legitimate, the institution will have record of an attempt to contact you. 

Never allow someone to help you set up direct deposit. It isn’t necessary. 

Stimulus checks will be direct deposited via the banking information on file that was used to deposit tax refunds. If you’ve never received a tax return via direct deposit, a secure portal will be available later this month for you to submit your bank information. Never allow someone to do this for you or assist you with this. If you’re unable to submit your information through the portal, you will be mailed a paper check. 

 Never verify your check amount to anyone.

Specific guidelines are in place for how much money will be distributed to an individual. This information is determined by your tax return from 2018 if you haven’t filed your taxes for 2019. The IRS has all of the information it needs so you will never need to verify how much money you are supposed to receive. 

Anyone calling to inform you of an issue with your check should not be trusted.

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has received audio of numerous different types of robocalls which are threatening Americans. These calls may demand payment for past-due taxes or issues with Social Security claims, among many others. As you’ve learned from previous bullet points, no one from the IRS or your bank will contact you for information or to give you information.

We wish you the best in these trying times. If you are expecting a paper check, keep a close eye on your mailbox. Scammers want your Coronavirus stimulus check and we hope the information in this article will help you stop that from happening. 

How To Spot Coronavirus Scams

COVID-19 Microscope

In times of crisis, criminals will take advantage of mass hysteria and fear. One of the easiest times to scam an individual is when they aren’t thinking straight, or their judgement is clouded. We are currently living in a terrifying time with the COVID-19 outbreak, and scammers are out in full force. It is important that you learn how to spot Coronavirus scams before you get taken advantage of. Every day we are bombarded with information and you need to stay alert in order to stay safe.

Tips To Avoid Coronavirus Scams

  • Never click a link from a source you don’t know. Whether this link is in an e-mail, social media message or text message, never click the link unless you are 100 percent sure the sender is legitimate. Clicking a malicious link could download a virus to your computer or device. Phishing is one of the fastest growing forms of identity theft, and even more so due to quarantining.
  • Beware of fraudulent e-mails claiming to be from the CDC. One of the hottest scams are e-mails which claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) with information regarding the Coronavirus. Oftentimes, these e-mails will look very legitimate, but actually not be from the CDC. Even if the link in the e-mail says it is from, the link may take you to an entirely different website. 
  • Be wary of pushy charities. Any charity or persons of need who ask you to donate quickly should instantly draw a red flag. If you wish to donate, you should be able to do so at your own pace. Also, if you are asked to donate via money transfer, cash or gift card, this should also raise suspicions. Before you donate, you should research the charity you intend to give money to. A website like Charity Navigator can provide you with information on any legitimate charity.
  • Online offers claiming to have a vaccine should be ignored. If a vaccine were to have been completed for Coronavirus, do you think you’d first hear about it from an online advertisement? If you’re looking for up to date information on the Coronavirus, visit the CDC Official Site or World Health Organization (WHO).

In the coming days, weeks and months you will have lots of information and offers throw your way. Your best bet is to be suspicious of everything and treat everything with extra care. Using caution will allow you to learn how to spot Coronavirus scams. You and your family have enough to worry about without having to worry about identity theft. Stay alert and stay safe.