Scams to watch for in the new year

Fraud, audit, auditor.

While a new year brings a fresh start, unfortunately there are more scams to keep watch out for as we jump into 2021.

With the pandemic still raging on, many scams as a result of COVID-19 continue to pop up, including fraudulent unemployment claims. In these instances of fraud, scammers are using the IDs of individuals to apply for unemployment. To make their case, scammers claim that the employer is someone the victim of identity theft is currently working for or recently retired from.

According to Ryan Jones, OVB senior vice president, chief risk officer, these claims have impacted individuals and businesses nation-wide, including those locally.

“Fraud and scams continue to be on the rise during the pandemic. OVB, as well as other businesses, have seen examples where fraudulent unemployment claims are being attempted at both small and large businesses,” Jones said. “If one is a victim to a fraudulent unemployment claim, we suggest you contact Job and Family Services Fraud Department and your local police department to report the activity.”

Jones added that there are various methods scammers use to track down consumer personal information for the unemployment claim scam.

“Every consumer needs to be aware of the various methods used to obtain personal information through social media platforms, emails and phone calls. Do not provide any personal information to someone who contacted you ‘out of the blue.’ If you question the conversation, do a call back before you give any information out over the phone or email,” he said.

For more information on fraudulent unemployment claims, please read OVB’s fraud advisory here.

According to Frank Davison, OVB senior vice president, financial bank group, there are many other scams to be aware of as well. The many scams that saw an increase last year, will likely still be very prevalent this year.

“It’s safe to assume that (the top scams from 2020) will continue into 2021, and we will see some new variants pop up as well,” Davison said.

Davison outlined the following scams as the major ones to be mindful of this year:

  • COVID-19 scams – When stimulus checks are issued scammers act quickly because people are often confused about how they will receive their funds. Fraudulent calls from someone claiming to be from the IRS have been on the rise in relation to this. In addition, with the COVID-19 vaccine now in circulation, vaccine related scams are popping up. According to Davison, scammers will promise individuals that they can receive the vaccine early in exchange for personal information. For correct information on vaccine distribution, call your local health department.
  • Online purchases – People who are wanting to spend their holiday gift money should really keep an eye out for online shopping scams. This type of scam almost always revolves around a dramatically discounted product from a new merchant. For example, if a pair of name brand shoes are online at a significantly low price, customers should research the company selling the product. Make sure to find out how long the company has been in operation as well as search for customer reviews. According to Davison, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Counterfeit problems – While scammers no longer sell on the streets of major cities, they have found a means to keep this scam going through social media platforms, such as Facebook. Be cautious of retailers that you do not recognize.
  • Employment – Unfortunately, scammers continue to take advantage of unemployment numbers. In addition to the fraudulent unemployment claims, scammers also create fake job opportunities as a means to collect personal information. Davison said ads that promise a high wage for little work for a company that is either not identified or not accessible via a company website is a red flag. If you are unsure, contact the company in question to obtain more information.
  • Debt collections – This type of scam preys on people who might be behind on paying their bills. For example, a scammer may pose as a legitimate company, such as your cell service provider, and threaten to cut service. If you receive a similar message, call the actual company to verify. Actual companies will also not ask customers to make payments via gift cards. According to Davison, scammers often encourage gift card payments as they are not traceable and cannot have a stop put on them like traditional credit cards.
  • Advanced fee loan – With this scam, criminals will ask you to pay a fee in exchange for money. This is a major red flag as lenders do not do this. Always question the legitimacy of anyone who asks for money up front in exchange for services.
  • Phishing scams – Phishing scams continue to be very popular and will likely continue to increase this year. To protect your information, do not click on links in an email if you are not expecting the email. Go to the website of the company identified in the email directly to verify.
  • Credit Cards – According to Davison, credit card scams are a variation of the debt collection scam. If your actual credit card company called you, they would already have your credit information on file. Do not give out your information unless you initiated the call.
  • Credit repair debt relief – Should you see an advertisement for credit repair debt relief, always verify the financial institution and go the institution’s direct website. Davison urges folks to not click on these advertisements unless they are online via a secure portal. For example, OVB’s website would be considered a secure portal, however, sites such as Facebook and Google are not secure portals.

In addition to the above scams, Davison said that identity theft continues to be very prevalent.

“Many of us have had our identities stolen and it just has not been used yet. The Equifax breach from just a few years ago is still recent and our identities sell many times for very little on the dark web. The best way to avoid being scammed is verifying with whom you are doing business by you reestablishing communications not by a phone number that they provide. And remember if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” he added.

Check back next Friday for tips to help you keep your New Year’s resolutions going past January in the final part of our New Year’s series.

One Response to Scams to watch for in the new year

  1. Pingback: Stick with your resolutions | Ohio Valley Bank

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