Fraudsters and scam artists are always looking for new ways to prey on consumers. Now they are using the same tactics to take advantage of consumers’ heightened financial and health concerns over the coronavirus pandemic. Federal, state, and local law enforcement have begun issuing warnings on the surge of coronavirus scams and how consumers can protect themselves. Here are some of the more prevalent coronavirus scams that consumers need to watch out for.
Schemes related to economic impact payments
The IRS recently issued a warning about various schemes related to economic impact payments that are being sent to taxpayers under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.1 The IRS warns taxpayers to be aware of scammers who:
- Use words such as “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment” instead of the official term, “economic impact payment”
- Ask you to “sign up” for your economic impact payment check
- Contact you by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information to receive or speed up your economic impact payment
In most cases, the IRS will deposit the economic impact payment directly into an account that taxpayers previously provided on their tax returns. If taxpayers have previously filed their taxes but not provided direct-deposit information to the IRS, they will be able to provide their banking information online at irs.gov/coronavirus. If the IRS does not have a taxpayer’s direct-deposit information, a check will be mailed to the taxpayer’s address on file with the IRS. In addition, the IRS is reminding Social Security recipients who normally don’t file taxes that no additional action or information is needed on their part to receive the $1,200 economic payment — it will be sent to them automatically.
Fraudulent treatments, vaccinations, and home test kits
The Federal Trade Commission is tracking scam artists who are attempting to sell fraudulent products that claim to treat, prevent, or diagnose COVID-19. Currently, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any products designed specifically to treat or prevent COVID-19.
The FDA had warned consumers in March to be wary of companies selling unauthorized coronavirus home testing kits. On April 21, 2020, the FDA authorized the first coronavirus test kit for home use. According to the FDA, the test kits will be available to consumers in most states, with a doctor’s order, in the coming weeks. You can visit fda.gov for more information.
Scammers have begun using phishing scams related to the coronavirus pandemic in order to obtain personal and financial information. Phishing scams usually involve unsolicited phone calls, emails, text messages, or fake websites that pose as legitimate organizations and try to convince you to provide personal or financial information. Once scam artists obtain this information, they use it to commit identity or financial theft. Be wary of anyone claiming to be from an official organization, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization, or nongovernment websites with domain names that include the words “coronavirus” or “COVID-19,” as they are likely to be malicious.
Many charitable organizations are dedicated to helping those affected by COVID-19. Scammers often pose as legitimate charitable organizations in order to solicit donations from unsuspecting donors. Be wary of charities with names that are similar to more familiar or nationally known organizations. Before donating to a charity, make sure that it is legitimate and never donate cash, gift cards, or funds by wire transfer. The IRS website has a tool to assist you in checking out the status of a charitable organization at irs.gov/charities-and-nonprofits.
Protecting yourself from scams
Fortunately, there are some things you can do to protect yourself from scams, including those related to the coronavirus pandemic:
- Don’t click on suspicious or unfamiliar links in emails, text messages, and instant messaging services.
- Don’t answer a phone call if you don’t recognize the phone number — instead, let it go to voicemail and check later to verify the caller.
- Never download email attachments unless you can verify that the sender is legitimate.
- Keep device and security software up-to-date, maintain strong passwords, and use multi-factor authentication.
- Never share personal or financial information via email, text message, or over the phone.
- If you see a scam related to the coronavirus, be sure to report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Have a great weekend!
Source: Broadridge Advisor
Golf Tip of the Week
Hitting a Lob Shot
Do you have to get out of some thick rough close to the hole, without much green to work with? Do you need to get your ball over a bunker, then land it softly? These situations call for lob shots, which are not that hard to hit.
A lob shot is akin to a cut shot. To hit a good lob, take a wide stance, open the clubface, and play the ball off your left instep with your weight shifted a bit onto your right foot. Your grip should be loose and relaxed. Your wrists should cock sharply as soon as you take the club back. Your hands should be quiet on the downswing. Lob shots ultimately have a lot to do with feel, so practice these shots to acquaint your mind and muscles with what needs to happen.
Tip adapted from Tom’s Golf Tipsi
Recipe of the Week
Classic Tomato and Bread Soup
- 1 medium onion
- 4 Tbsp. olive oil (divided)
- 4 to 6 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 28-oz. cans whole, peeled tomatoes
- 2 to 3 bay leaves
- 2 cups of chicken stock
- 1½ cups of cubed, rustic bread (best to use day old)
- 1 tsp. dried oregano
- Pinch of chili flakes
- Approximately ½ tsp. salt, to taste
- Fresh ground pepper, to taste
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Chopped fresh basil or parsley, for garnish
- Begin by adding the olive oil to a 5- to 6-qt. Dutch oven, warmed on medium heat. Sauté onions until translucent. Then, season with salt and pepper, add minced garlic, and cook for a few additional minutes.
- Next, crush the tomatoes by hand and transfer into the pot.
- Add the chicken stock, bay leaves, and dried oregano. Heat to a simmer, then reduce heat to maintain a low simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes.
- Warm up a large frying pan on medium heat and add the remaining olive oil to a sauté pan. When the oil is hot, evenly spread the cubed bread in the pan. Toss to coat with oil and brown the sides of the bread evenly.
- After the soup has cooked for approximately 20 minutes, add the browned bread cubes. Cook for about 5 more minutes, then turn off the heat, cover the soup, and let stand for 15 minutes. Remove the lid, then extract the bay leaves and discard.
- Set aside about ⅓ of the soup. Purée the rest with an immersion blender or pour it into a food processor and blend until smooth. Incorporate the blended and unblended soup. Pour into bowls and serve with grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley or basil.
Recipe adapted from SimplyRecipesii
Health Tip of the Week
Our Furry Friends Can Improve Our Health
Did you know having one or more companion animal in your life may be beneficial to your health? This tip is not a substitute for medical advice, especially for those who may have allergies to certain animals. Let’s explore how.
Studies have correlated our fluffy family members:
- Lower blood pressure
- Healthy blood lipid levels
- More exercise and time outdoors
- Increased social engagement
While adopting an animal means increased responsibilities, if you’ve been looking for a reason to bring one home, the health advantages above may be worth considering.
Tip adapted from CDC.goviii
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Greenville, SC 29615
1 – Internal Revenue Service, IR-2020-64, April 2, 2020
Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, legal, or retirement advice or recommendations. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable — we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice.
The articles and opinions expressed in this newsletter were gathered from a variety of sources, but are reviewed by Ballentine Capital Advisors prior to its dissemination. All sources are believed to be reliable but do not constitute specific investment advice. In all cases, please contact your investment professional before making any investment choices.
Securities through Triad Advisors, LLC, Member FINRA/SIPC. Advisory services through Ballentine Capital Advisors, Inc. Triad Advisors and Ballentine Capital Advisors are not affiliated entities.
i Tom’s Golf Tips, April 23, 2020
ii SimplyRecipes.com, April 23, 2020
iiiCDC.gov, April 23, 2020