Seniors safeguard against COVID-19 scams

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MENIFEE – Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus. There are ways for residents, especially for seniors, to avoid scams and protect their money and personal information as recommended by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

Online Scams

Online scammers look for ways to prey on the fears of individuals, especially when there is an emergency, and people are seeking assistance, guidance and resources to deal with the emergency situation. It is important that the general community understand that these times in crisis is also when scammers are setting up their websites to sell bogus products and using fake emails, texts and social media posts as a ruse to take consumer money and get access to personal information. Scammers are forging emails mentioning the COVID-19 outbreak to make it appear to be from business partners or public institutions to try to get users to open the messages, unleashing harmful malware.

How can residents know if a coronavirus email is a scam?

It is important to follow normal online tips to protect personal accounts, finances and identities. More importantly, people must not click on links or respond to an email that they do not recognize. The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips or fake information about cases in the neighborhood. They also may be asking the reader to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments or contain malicious email attachments.

Scams for coronavirus vaccines and cures

There is currently no vaccine for COVID-19, and no specific treatment to prevent or treat a coronavirus infection. Scientists are working on these issues currently and only started to begin testing. However, scammers are taking advantage of fear and misinformation to take people’s finances and making false promises. For information, check with the California Department of Public Health, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or World Health Organization for details.

Can people pay to be on a list to be the first to receive a vaccine?

No. Do not give money to anyone that claims a payment will put them on a list to fast-track receiving a vaccination. There are no lists being generated for people to receive vaccinations. When a vaccine does become available, a resident’s medical provider will notify them.

Should people buy a product that claims to cure coronavirus?

Be wary of anyone touting any type of medical miracle or holistic cures. Using questionable and untested products will cost money and potentially be dangerous to their health. Think twice before spending money on a product that claims to cure a wide range of diseases.

Be suspect of products that provide only patient testimonials as evidence of their effectiveness. Patient testimonials can be made up and embellished, and they are no substitute for true scientific evidence. Before using any product that makes these claims, consult with a doctor or health care professional to ensure it is safe to use.

How can residents buy a kit to test themselves at home for coronavirus?

Home testing kits for some common medical issues are available at many retailers; however, there are no home test kits for coronavirus. Be wary of the unapproved or fraudulent test kits being marketed on the internet, in magazines and elsewhere. Patients who suspect they may have the virus or that they may be infected should consult with a physician on the best way to provide a specimen for testing.

Should residents invest in a company that’s working on a coronavirus vaccine or cure?

Be alert to “investment opportunities” or offers to crowd fund for a cure. If residents see one of these promotions, ignore it.

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission 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. The promotions claim that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. Keep in mind that contributing to a crowd fund will not guarantee any results and contributions to a crowd fund may not be refundable.

Charity scams

Charities help communities in their time of need and representatives may ask for donations from people to help fund their activities; however, scammers may try to take advantage of the kindness of others for their own benefit.

How do I know my donation is going to a real charity?

In California, all legitimate charities and professional fundraisers must be registered with the California State Attorney General, Charitable Trusts Section. This office regulates charitable organizations to ensure donations contributed by Californians are not stolen or misused through fraud. To ensure the charity you are donating to is legitimate, use the Attorney General’s Registry Verification Search here. This tool allows you to search the files of the Registry of Charitable Trusts.

Do some homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Residents should not let anyone rush them into making a donation. Do not pay donations with gift cards or by wiring money.

More information on scams

Stay up to date on the latest scams and precautions by signing up for Consumer and Business Affairs’ consumer alerts. If a resident comes across any suspicious claims, they can report them to the Federal Trade Commission at https://www.ftc.gov/complaint.

As the novel coronavirus pandemic evolves, Menifee will continue to provide updates. Information regarding the coronavirus is changing frequently. For accurate and up to date information about COVID-19, visit https://www.cityofmenifee.us/coronavirus and sign up for notifications for alerts and news.

Submitted by city of Menifee.