Common Fraud Schemes Related To COVID-19
Navigator Credit Union wants you to be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes helping to keep you safe from fraudsters. We want to make you aware of some of the common fraud schemes now being reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
According to the FBI, one of the most prevalent schemes is government impersonators. Criminals are reaching out to people through social media, emails or phone calls pretending to be representing government agencies. In some cases, they’re even going door-to-door to try to convince people to give them money for COVID-19 testing, financial relief or medical equipment. It’s important to know the government will not reach out to you in these ways. If someone reaches out to you directly and says they’re from the government helping you with virus-related issues, it’s likely a scam.
Fraudulent Cures or Medical Equipment
The FBI says it’s most concerned about fake cures or treatments for the virus. These cures can be dangerous to your health and could even be fatal. You should never accept a medical treatment or virus test from anyone other than your doctor, pharmacist or local health department.
People who are at home and out of work are vulnerable to work-from-home scams. If someone you don’t know contacts you and wants you to urgently pay them in return for a job, there’s a good chance it is a scam. Legitimate employers will not ask you to pay them in order to get work.
One of the most lucrative schemes being encountered by the agency involves criminals offering you an opportunity to invest in a cure or treatment for the virus. The purpose of these get-rich quick schemes is simply to defraud the investor. Any offer like this should be treated with extreme skepticism.
Ways to protect yourself
Use the utmost caution in online communication. When it comes to emails, always verify who the sender is – and look closely; criminals will sometimes change just one letter in an email address to make it look like it comes from someone you know. Be very wary of attachments or links; hover your mouse over a link before clicking to see where it’s sending you.
In general, the wisest and safest approach is to be suspicious of anyone offering you something that’s “too good to be true” or is a secret investment opportunity or medical advice. Seek out legitimate sources of information on your own without relying on the claims which come from unfamiliar sources.
While they’re practicing social distancing as part of an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, many people are turning to social media to stay connected and pass the time. Navigator Credit Union wants to warn of an old trick identity thieves are deploying to get your information.
Navigator, along with the Better Business Bureau, warns you to think twice before taking part in social media challenges and quizzes. These are those posts which ask, “What was your favorite teacher’s name? Who was your first grade teacher? Who was your childhood best friend? What was your first car?” and similar questions.
If these questions sound familiar, they should! These are the many of the same questions you are asked as security questions when setting up bank and credit card accounts. When you answer these questions and post your responses online, you may not realize you are also giving the answers needed to get past the security questions set up to protect your private information and money.
Although many of these posts are simply meant for fun, hackers are also setting up these “get to know you” posts as a way to steal your information. They then can steal your online identity, build a profile of you and use the information you inadvertently handed them in order to hack your accounts or open lines of credit in your name.
Here are some tips to avoid social media scams:
- Be skeptical: Before you take a quiz, see if you can figure out who created it. Is it a brand you trust? Just because something appears to be fun and innocent, doesn’t mean there isn’t an inherent risk.
- Adjust privacy settings: Review your social media account’s privacy settings and be strict about what information you share - and be mindful of who you are sharing it with.
- Remove personal details from your profile: Don’t share information like your phone number or home address on social media accounts.
- Don’t share friends’ information: Many quizzes, games and apps ask for access to your friends list and information. Do not grant permissions without asking your friends first! While you are choosing to give access to your information, they aren’t – and you could be putting them at risk, too.
- Monitor Friend Requests. Don't accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Also be wary of a second friend request from someone you are already connected with; the second profile may be an imposter trying to access your data and your Friends list.
Of course, not all of the quizzes, posts and games are scams. However it is best to remain vigilant and refrain for such activities as there is no way to tell which ones may have been created by scammers. When it comes to this seemingly innocent “fun,” it is truly better to be safe than sorry.
Navigator Credit Union is committed to helping you protect your privacy. As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on people’s pocketbooks, your finances could face other threats as well.
Experts are warning of a rise in scams. You’re advised to be on the lookout for an increase in calls and email phishing attempts. That’s not all. Tech savvy fraudsters may also use text messages, websites and social media to request money or get your personal information.
The Internal Revenue Service says scammers may:
- Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
- Ask you to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
- Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying the information is needed to receive or speed up your economic impact payment.
- Suggest they can work on your behalf to get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster. This scam may be conducted by social media but it could even be done in person.
- Mail you a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, and then tell you to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.
Navigator wants to remind Members it is extremely important you do not provide personal or financial information, including social security number or bank account information, to an unknown source. If you think you’ve been contacted by a scammer, you’re encouraged to report it to the Federal Trade Commission.
The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act is now law. With it, comes some of the biggest changes to retirement savings law in recent years. While the new rules don’t appear to amount to a massive upheaval, the SECURE Act will require a change in strategy for many Americans. For others, it may reveal new opportunities.
Limits on Stretch IRAs.
The legislation “modifies” the required minimum distribution rules in regard to defined contribution plans and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) balances upon the death of the account owner. Under the new rules, distributions to non-spouse beneficiaries are generally required to be distributed by the end of the 10th calendar year following the year of the account owner’s death.1
It’s important to highlight that the new rule does not require the non-spouse beneficiary to take withdrawals during the 10-year period. But all the money must be withdrawn by the end of the 10th calendar year following the inheritance.
A surviving spouse of the IRA owner, disabled or chronically ill individuals, individuals who are not more than 10 years younger than the IRA owner and child of the IRA owner who has not reached the age of majority may have other minimum distribution requirements.
Let’s say that a person has a hypothetical $1 million IRA. Under the new law, your non-spouse beneficiary may want to consider taking at least $100,000 a year for 10 years regardless of their age. For example, say you are leaving your IRA to a 50-year-old child. They must take all the money from the IRA by the time they reach age 61. Prior to the rule change, a 50-year-old child could “stretch” the money over their expected lifetime, or roughly 30 more years.
IRA Contributions and Distributions.
Another major change is the removal of the age limit for traditional IRA contributions. Before the SECURE Act, you were required to stop making contributions at age 70½. Now, you can continue to make contributions as long as you meet the earned-income requirement.2
Also, as part of the Act, you are mandated to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a traditional IRA at age 72, an increase from the prior 70½. Allowing money to remain in a tax-deferred account for an additional 18 months (before needing to take an RMD) may alter some previous projections of your retirement income.2
The SECURE Act’s rule change for RMDs only affects Americans turning 70½ in 2020. For these taxpayers, RMDs will become mandatory at age 72. If you meet this criterion, your first RMD won’t be necessary until April 1 of the year after you reach 72.2
Multiple Employer Retirement Plans for Small Business.
In terms of wide-ranging potential, the SECURE Act may offer its biggest change in the realm of multi-employer retirement plans. Previously, multiple employer plans were only open to employers within the same field or sharing some other “common characteristics.” Now, small businesses have the opportunity to buy into larger plans alongside other small businesses, without the prior limitations. This opens small businesses to a much wider field of options.1
Another big change for small business employer plans comes for part-time employees. Before the SECURE Act, these retirement plans were not offered to employees who worked fewer than 1,000 hours in a year. Now, the door is open for employees who have either worked 1,000 hours in the space of one full year or to those who have worked at least 500 hours per year for three consecutive years.2
While the SECURE Act represents some of the most significant changes we have seen to the laws governing financial saving for retirement, it’s important to remember that these changes have been anticipated for a while now. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to your trusted financial professional.
Jeff Hamm may be reached at 228-474-3427.
Learn more about NCU Wealth Management.
This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.
Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution.
- waysandmeans.house.gov/sites/democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/files/documents/SECURE%20Act%20section%20by%20section.pdf [12/25/19]
- marketwatch.com/story/with-president-trumps-signature-the-secure-act-is-passed-here-are-the-most-important-things-to-know-2019-12-21 [12/25/19]