Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, together with leaders from the American Association of Retired Persons, Association of Mature American Citizens, American Seniors Association and the Florida Council on Aging, met virtually on April 9, 2020, to discuss emerging scams targeting older Floridians amid COVID-19 pandemic. According to Attorney General Moody, “Seniors are uniquely vulnerable to COVID-19 and to scams designed to exploit the fear surrounding the pandemic to rip off Floridians. That is why we are working with the top senior groups in Florida to make sure older Floridians have the resources necessary to avoid falling prey to these fraudsters.” During the virtual meeting, the panel discussed some of the most common COVID-19 scams victimizing elderly citizens, such as: cyber scams, telephone and text messaging scams, counterfeit product offers, bogus door to door testing offers, offers to sell fake virus cures and phony charity donation solicitations.
The report warns in reference to cyber scams that citizens should be wary of all emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other healthcare organizations, offering to share information about the virus. Also, be on the lookout for emails asking for the verification of personal data in exchange for receiving economic stimulus funds or other benefits from the government. Government agencies are not sending out emails asking for sensitive personal information in order to receive government funds or other official pandemic financial relief.
The panel also discussed the ongoing robocall problem. Now that many Floridians are working remotely and are home there has been an increasing volume of phone calls, making it hard to ignore unknown numbers. The panel advises that if anybody receives a robocall, just hang up! Do not press any numbers or characters on your phone. Scammers are calling with offers involving everything from COVID-19 treatments and cures to work from home schemes. Like email phishing scams, text messages from unknown sources may offer hyperlinks to what appears to be automated pandemic updates or interactive infection maps. Clicking on these links gives scammers a way of installing malware on mobile electronic devices, putting the recipient of the message at increased risk of identity theft and financial exploitation.
Other points of conversation were offers for COVID-19 vaccinations and home test kits. Currently, no vaccines, pills, lotions, medications or other prescription or over the counter products are available to treat or cure the novel coronavirus. Do not answer the door or allow inside any unknown individual or business representatives offering to sell consumer products, medical kits, vaccines, cures or in person COVID-19 testing. It is recommended that when buying consumer products that are in extreme demand, like sanitizers, personal hygiene products, and health and medical supplies that are offered online, the consumer be very cautious and confirm that the website is legitimate, additionally it is recommended that the consumer pays with a credit card rather than a debit card, and keep a record of the transaction. If you believe a company is capitalizing through prize gouging, bring your concerns to the attention of the Attorney General’s office by contacting the Price Gouging Hotline at 1.866.9NO-SCAM.
Lastly, the panel warns about phony charities and donation requests that take advantage of the good will and generosity by creating fictitious charitable organizations and seeking donations that never go to the fake charity’s stated cause and take money away from those in need. Be sure to research where a charitable donation is going. Additionally, Attorney General Moody issued a Consumer Alert warning Floridians about scammers using the new coronavirus stimulus package to target Floridians. News of the historic stimulus is providing ammo for scammers already trying to exploit the COVID-19 pandemic to rip off Floridians.