The country continues to struggle as the coronavirus rages on; job security, the enormity of the virus’s hit to the economy, and just general fear of the effects of the virus are being felt palpably by everyone. One more thing we don’t need to add to the pile is scams.
Scammers will take advantage of any situation for their own gain, it’s not for us to decide their motivations but the insidious nature of many scams and the seeming complete lack of morality on who scammers target means EVERYONE is at risk.
As a technology company we’re used to helping combat cyber scams and attacks in all their forms, but those in other occupations are also entrusted with their clients’ personally identifiable information, and with protecting their clients’ assets.
Today’s article focuses on the role CPAs are playing in the current crisis and how businesses can protect themselves from COVID-19 related scams.
Many scams right now are focused around financial aid, such as relief checks. It’s a common theme: the scammers have “funds” they want you to deposit and return while keeping a share for yourself. After you deposit the money and give them their cut you find out the check was bad. You’re out the initial money and some of your own.
This scam is being used with the backdrop of COVID-19 now. As stimulus funds are being sent out to individuals and businesses in both check and electronic form, this presents an array of opportunities for financial predators and hackers. It’s more important than ever to study the communication method being used by people offering to send you money and be wary of anything that may look official but just sounds “off”.
Another related scam that’s seen a surge in popularity is the so-called ‘IRS scam’. “IRS” scam callers are inundating people’s phones at all times of the day; often times the scammer will say a warrant has been issued for your arrest because of alleged tax fraud, and that the only way to save yourself from going to jail is to send the scammer large sums of money via gift cards. The IRS will NEVER accept a gift card as a method of payment, nor will they contact you by telephone about a balance owed.
While you can call the IRS for information, the IRS will not be calling you about your stimulus check. Scammers impersonating government agencies is nothing new but when in doubt, hang up and call the official numbers yourself for more information.
Any email you receive asking for your private details is also definitely a scam. Email is not a secure method for sensitive data such as your Social Security number or banking information.
One more thing that’s ramping up are COVID-19 scams on social media. You may have seen ads on Facebook or WhatsApp offering you free financial help; scammers will present you with ads involving fake celebrity livestreams and other ruses to capture your interest. Those ads are designed to collect your personal details.
It’s a tantalizing phishing scheme: who couldn’t use $500, $5000 or even as much as $50,000 depending on how bold the scammer is feeling? Beyond just collecting your details many of these ads are also trying to get you to click on a link that may infect your device with malware. If you see these ads on social media, report them, or if you get one in a message or email, report it and delete it.
If the message came from a friend contact them directly, outside of social media. They may not know their account has been compromised.
Scams are just one part of the puzzle. There are so many things to navigate related to COVID-19 and its impact on your business. Chances are you’re already working with a CPA when it comes to things such as PPP loans and your day to day business financial obligations. We think touching base with them regarding coronavirus related scams and how you and those around you can avoid them and protect your financial health is crucial.
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This article was powered by Valley TechLogic, an IT provider in Atwater, CA. You can find more information at https://www.valleytechlogic.com/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/valleytechlogic/ . Follow us on Twitter at https://twitter.com/valleytechlogic.
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