Protecting Yourself Against Scammers in the Time of COVID-19
I had a call last week claiming to be from the IRS and threatening me with fines and jail time if I did not respond. The voice sounded like it was backed with authority and that there would be serious consequences if I did not call them. If you receive a call like this, it may likely shake you or scare you. We here at Legal Aid of Wyoming want to caution you about scammers. The IRS call like the one I received is a common scam. The IRS, Social Security Office, or other government offices will never call you and ask you for private information. They will not threaten you with jail time or with fines.
Let’s say you did have some trouble with taxes, then the IRS will likely contact you by letter and you will be given an opportunity to respond in writing. Bottom line: they will never call or text. So, if you get a call like this, just hang up or delete the message.
During the pandemic, we are all faced with additional anxiety and worries. Scammers prey on that. They want you to be worried. They want you to be scared. And they want to try to get your money or personal information. Do not give it to them.
Some common COVID-19 related scams right now include:
- Offers of vaccines, treatments, or cures
- Offers to help you access any stimulus/economic impact payments for which you may be eligible
- Claims of being a contact tracer and asking for personal, private information that puts your identity at risk
- Offers to help you fix a technical problem with your computer, phone, or email account. They may ask you to “verify” your password and other account information.
- Never give out personal, private, and/or confidential information especially not over the phone, the internet, or text messaging
- Examples of personal, private, and/or confidential information are things like your name, your date of birth, your social security number, your banking information, passwords, and personal information that may help someone figure out your password, and the like.
- If you feel uncomfortable on a call or text, listen to your gut. Hang up the phone or decline to talk with the person. You do not have to give a reason or justification.
- Do not click on links in emails or texts. Links can be used to plant a worm or virus on your computer which then enables someone else to access your computer or personal information. (Sometimes friends and family members send links. If they are “cute” forwards, pictures, or stories, I do not click on them. You can also change your settings in your email so that it does not automatically download pictures.)
If you think you are the victim of a scam, you can call Legal Aid of Wyoming’s hotline at 877-432-9955 to see if we might be able to assist you. Other helpful resources include:
- Federal Trade Commission
- National Do Not Call Registry
- Identity Theft
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
- Wyoming Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Unit
Consumer Protection Unit
2320 Capitol Avenue
Cheyenne, WY 82002
Phone: 307-777-6397 or 1-800-438-5799 (toll free in Wyoming)
Fax: (307) 777-3435
- National Association of Consumer Advocates
- Eldercare Locator
- National Consumer Law Center » For an up-to-date list of consumer protections available under the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), see Major Consumer Protections Announced in Response to COVID-19
- Publication: National Consumer Law Center, Guide to Surviving Debt