Nov 30, 2021

We’re living in strange — and distracting — times. While we focus our attention on our families and friends amidst a pandemic, social unrest and economic struggles, it’s disheartening to think that we’re vulnerable to financial predators. But fraud and scams are on the rise. Criminals are taking advantage of the distractions. Here are some ways you can keep your guard up.

1. Pause before you respond to a text

Many of us are used to “phishy” emails. Strange fonts. Suspicious links. Unsolicited requests for personal information. But texting is second nature these days, even for those of us who aren’t teenagers. It’s easy to be caught off guard. Before you respond to a text from an unknown sender ... pause. Analyze the context, the requested action and the expected response.

  • Be wary of any text (or phone call or email) about a coronavirus stimulus payment. The Federal Trade Commission warns that the IRS won’t use these methods to contact you.
  • Be suspicious of any text or other outreach that asks you to verify personal information, such as your social security number or notices to sign up for your relief check.
  • Be on the lookout for older email swindles adapted to text messages, like family emergencies, imposters and gift card scams.

2. Look out for coronavirus-themed offers and robocalls

Test kits. Treatments. Vaccinations. Scammers are taking advantage of our hopes and emerging research in these areas. Right now, there’s no approved treatment, vaccine or at-home test kit, so be wary of any coronavirus-themed promises.

3. Watch out for fake unemployment claims

As the number of unemployment claims rise, so do the number of fraudulent unemployment claims. Criminals steal personal information to try to cash in on the misfortune of others. Here’s what to do if you receive notice about having filed a (false) unemployment claim.

4. Protect your small business

It’s not just individuals who risk getting scammed. With relief packages available to help small business owners, scammers are aiming to nab those funds first. Here are some ways to protect your small business against fraud.

5. Know that some online orders don’t deliver

Online sales soared for many of life’s conveniences, especially when stocks of toilet paper, hand sanitizer and masks ran low. As we ventured out less, we relied more on online retailers. But some merchants failed to deliver. Here are some tips for safe online shopping.

6. Sign up for scam alerts

It’s hard for honest people to stay one step ahead of the criminals. That’s why it’s a good idea to sign up for scam alerts to get up-to-date information about the latest scams. “Forewarned is forearmed,” as the saying goes.

7. Protect your financial accounts

Learn how to keep your credit and debit cards, and Cinfed financial accounts secure. Find digital defense and other helpful tips at Cinfed Security Corner.