03 Aug SCAMS DURING THE PANDEMIC – A MINI-REVIEW
Dr. Sherry McCoy PhD
is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook . For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
SCAMS DURING THE PANDEMIC – A MINI-REVIEW
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD – Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program
Here we are in August 2021, and summer is in full swing. Lots of HOT weather ahead for most of us. It’s time to grab a tall glass of iced tea or lemonade, relax in your favorite easy chair, and chill out! That’s my plan. And while I’m chilling, I thought I’d highlight just a few of the scams that fraudsters foisted upon us during the past year and a half during the pandemic. Sadly, the pandemic isn’t over. It will be one day, but that day hasn’t arrived yet. And scammers haven’t stopped cooking up nefarious schemes to separate us from our life savings, either. I think it’s fair to say that day hasn’t arrived yet. And it’s unlikely that it ever will. Here is a mini-review of what scammers and con artists have been up to since the beginning of the coronavirus health crisis. Please share with friends and family. Let us all steer clear of fraud. Stay Informed! Stay Awake! Knowledge is Power!
SCAMS DURING THE PANDEMIC
FAKE CURES, FAKE WEBSITES — Just one month into the pandemic, scammers were already busy and working overtime, as the title of this article by Matthew Ormseth and Joel Rubin of the LOS ANGELES TIMES clearly states: “Fake cures, scams, phony medications and price gouging: Predators pounce during coronavirus.” (A) Ormseth and Rubin reported that “As of [April 13,2020], the Federal Trade Commission … has fielded about 16,800 complaints of coronavirus-related fraud, with a total reported loss of $12.78 million. The median loss for a complainant is $570.” Fake websites also came into play early on in the pandemic. Here’s just one example from CBS News: “A website mimicking the legitimate Johns Hopkins University site, which is used to track coronavirus cases worldwide, is being spread across the internet.” (B)
MEDICARE TELEHEALTH SCAMS – Per the Senior Medicare Patrol in March 2020 (C), “Medicare … expanded its coverage of telehealth services (TS) to enable beneficiaries to receive a wider range of healthcare services from doctors without having to travel to a healthcare facility.” This is the good news. The bad news is that scammers and unscrupulous providers use TS illegally as a way of committing Medicare fraud and abuse – like billing your health insurance for TS that you didn’t request or receive, etc.
INTERNET PHISHING SCAMS — According to a June 2020 article from Aging in Place (D), the primary way fraudsters try to separate us from our hard-earned cash is through “Phishing” scams on the internet. (Phishing is “when a scammer uses fraudulent emails or texts, or copycat websites to get you to share valuable personal information – such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords.”) Since most of us have been staying safe-at-home during this health crisis — and spending a lot more time online — fraudsters have had a “Phishing Field Day.” To make matters worse, it’s estimated that over 80% of online scams go unreported.
PET SCAMS — Pet scams (where you are sold a pet that does NOT exist!) have been big business during the pandemic. Seniors in particular have felt isolated and lonely and have sought the companionship of furry friends. (E) Per a Better Business Bureau (BBB) report in August 2020 (F), pet scams skyrocketed to more than 3 times the amount reported to the BBB Scam Tracker in previous years. Specifically, the BBB report indicated:
- 24% of reported online scams are now “pet scams.”
- $700 is the average amount of money lost, per pet scam.
- 70% of those targeted for pet scams, wind up losing money.
COVID-19 VACCINE SCAMS and VACCINE SURVEY SCAMS – On December 3, 2020, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) alerted Americans who were anxious to receive the COVID-19 vaccination with this statement: “You will not be asked for money to enhance your ranking for vaccine eligibility.” On the same day the HHS alert was issued, WROC-TV of Rochester, NY, reported a robocall scam which “offered people a chance to avoid long lines and receive an early does of the Pfizer vaccine for $79.99.” Then, on December 11, 2020, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) authorized emergency-use of the Pfizer vaccine. (G) Moderna and J&J vaccines were subsequently authorized for emergency-use as well by the FDA. As more and more people began to get vaccinated in 2021, scammers came up with the “Vaccine Survey Scam,” which offers you a chance to receive a special prize (like an IPAD Pro) in exchange for filling out an online survey about your vaccination experience. The only problem is you have to pay up front for shipping and handling costs for a prize that doesn’t exist and never will arrive on your doorstep!
WHERE TO REPORT SCAMS
FBI: Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), https://www.ic3.gov/complaint/default.aspx.
Senior Medicare Patrol (SMP): 855-613-7080, www.cahealthadvocates.org
Federal Trade Commission: 877-382-4357, https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.LosAngeles.
Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office: 213-974-3512, http://da.lacounty.gov/
U.S. Senate Special Committee on Aging’s Fraud Hotline: 855-303-9470.
Securities and Exchange Commission: https://www.sec.gov/tcr
Social Security and the Office of Inspector General Hotline: 800-269-0271, https://www.socialsecurity.gov/fraudreport/oig/public_fraud_reporting/form
(A) “Fake cures, scams, phony medications and price gouging: Predators pounce during coronavirus,” Matthew Ormseth and Joel Rubin, LOS ANGELES TIMES, April 13, 2020, https://www.latimes.com/california/story/2020-04-14/coronavirus-home-test-treatment-scams.
(B) “Fake coronavirus tracking website being used to steal data, other scams popping up,” Lizandra Portal, March 16, 2020, https://cbs12.com/news/local/fake-coronavirus-tracking-website-being-used-to-steal-data-other-scams-popping-up.
(C) “Medicare & Coronavirus – What You Need To Know,” Senior Medicare Patrol, https://cahealthadvocates.org/medicare-coronavirus-what-you-need-to-know/
(D) “Top Internet Scams Affecting the Elderly,” AGING IN PLACE, June 2020, https://www.aginginplace.org/internet-scams-affecting-elderly.
(E) “Pet Scams on the Rise as Adoptions Skyrocket Amid Pandemic,” Jeff Ehling, September 18, 2020, https://abc13.com/puppy-scam-online-pet-buying-better-business-bureau-a-dog-or-cat/6437411/.
(F) “BBB Warning: Puppy Scam Reports Skyrocket During COVID-19 Pandemic,” August 26, 2020, https://www.bbb.org/article/news-releases/22363-is-that-quarantine-puppy-real-puppy-scam-reports-skyrocket-during-covid-19-pandemic-bbb-warns.
(G) “With People Getting COVID-19 Vaccine, Officials Warn That Scams Are Next,” Katherine Skiba, AARP, December 12, 2020, aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2020/coronavirus-vaccine-scams.html.
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM CONTINUES VIRTUAL PROGRAMMING
SSSAP is continuing to schedule virtual programs. Please contact us if your organization would like to host our program. Many thanks to Karen Stigler and Palisades Senior Alliance for hosting our July program! The Stop Senior Scam Actors presented a live skit and the seniors in attendance asked our expert Ann Stahl questions on current scams. I was happy to be a part of the program as well and presented information from my NOT BORN YESTERDAY July 2021 article, “Home Title Fraud.”
STOP SENIOR SCAMS℠ ACTING PROGRAM on YOUTUBE
Please go to the SSSAP YouTube Channel https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCjFjb-WPPr8KAXq1dlu1EvA to see our new videos. If you subscribe (free of charge), you will be notified when new videos are released. Together we can Stop Senior Scams! Here are links to two of our most recent videos: “The Top Senior Scams with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cp097g7hTUg, and “Robocalls, Mail Fraud, and Merlin with SSSAP” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dA3noym9JPo&t=186s.
Remember: You may be a target, but you don’t have to be a victim!
Dr. Sherry McCoy, PhD is a freelance writer & actor for the Stop Senior Scams ℠ Acting Program (SSSAP) in Los Angeles. Follow SSSAP on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SSSAP2016/?fref=ts. For more info re: SSSAP, contact Adrienne Omansky at SSSAP4U@gmail.com. Questions for the writer should be directed to “Dear Sherry” at Not Born Yesterday! P.O. Box 722, Brea, CA 92822 or email@example.com.