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Kelly J. Bullis: COVID-19 scams

By Kelly J. Bullis

Are there evil people actively trying to hurt you? YES! Most do not even live in the USA. They work in what is called the “dark web.” They reach out to entrap innocent folks like you and me with very convincing trickery. Here are some to be on the lookout for.

PHISHING: These are schemes utilizing emails, letters, texts and links. They use keywords to grab your attention like, “Coronavirus;” or “COVID-19;” or “Stimulus.” They are designed to prey on fear and misinformation about this topic. Many times, they try and get you to respond by clicking on a link in their message which promises to give you more information. Instead, by clicking on that link, it downloads a virus into your computer/device which attempts to steal private information.

FAKE CHARITIES: Evil criminals often exploit natural disasters and other situations, like the COVID-19 pandemic, by setting up fake charities. They create bogus websites using similar sounding names to real charities. They are designed to prey on people’s good nature and try to trick folks into sending money in the hopes that they are helping out others who are hurting in some way.

EIP or REFUND THEFTS: Evil criminals this year have turned their attention to stealing Economic Impact Payments. They do this by filing fraudulent tax returns using different addresses, causing your EIP to be misdirected to them instead of you. An alternative scam is to get you to give private information in the hope of receiving a “stimulus payment,” etc. They can make their message look very convincing. They use real logos from banks, the IRS, etc.

SOCIAL MEDIA SCAMS: In this one, the scammers impersonate someone you know (friends, family, co-workers). This is an attempt to get past your “radar” against scams by making it look like it is from someone you trust. The most common form is social media messaging, but also expanding into texts. (It’s been in emails for a long time and we are usually wise to that… see PHISHING above.) The promises are something like “I just found out I can get up to $10,000, you can too!” They try to engage you in a “conversation” to let your guard down. At some point, they send you a link to the magical “whatever” that they are so excited about and want to share with you. The link usually downloads a virus into your computer, or opens up your social media site, etc.

So, given the fact that evil criminals are so abundantly out there trying to hurt you, what is your defense? VERIFY. Unexpected emails, call the organization (do NOT use the phone number in their email, look it up). Want to give to a charity. Call the organization (once again, never use the phone number in the communication you received, look it up). Not much you can do to prevent fraudulent tax returns being filed. When it happens, the IRS has a pretty good system to stop it. Social Media scams are the hardest. I have gotten some of these along with all the other stuff listed above. I just pick up the phone and call that friend, family member, or co-worker. I ask them if they sent me a Private Message and what was it about.

Have you heard? Psalm 21:11 says, “Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.”

Kelly Bullis is a Certified Public Accountant in Carson City. Contact him at 882-4459. On the web at BullisAndCo.com Also on Facebook.