Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, we in law enforcement have seen an increase in scams concocted by ruthless individuals who are after your money. As such and from the very beginning, my office engaged our Price Gouging and Scam Hotline (305-547-3300) for residents to call to report these types of crimes. We also established a working relationship with online retailer Amazon, making them aware of our efforts and concerns for our residents. They provided us with a direct line of communication in case we have cases of concern to bring to their attention, and many of the ones we brought to their attention were blocked. They also assured us that anyone their company sees is price gouging would have their entire Amazon store blocked. Additionally, this collaboration with Amazon has resulted in ten open criminal investigations.
Now that the federal government has started sending economic impact payments, also known as stimulus checks, to Americans to help them overcome the financial challenges created by this pandemic, many individuals are looking forward to these payments as an important crutch to survive job layoffs and downturns. But scammers see these times as a chance for “Christmas in Spring”, using every trick in the book to make your money, their money
Identity thieves are particularly working extra-hard to use your personal information to steal your check. Fraudulent applications using real social security numbers are redirecting stimulus checks, and unemployment checks as well, into the pockets of these thieves.
Some of these scammers are trying to ensnare you through phone calls. For example, they may call you repeatedly using illegal robocalls claiming that your social security number is about to be revoked, your bank accounts are about to be seized, or that your grandson/granddaughter is in trouble. Do not believe a caller is reputable simply because your caller ID seems to verify their identity. Scam callers use technology to show up on caller ID as anyone they wish.
Other scammers may text you that your credit cards are being revoked or your internet or cable service is being terminated. It’s all about trying to scare or provoke you to act and give them important personal information like your bank account routing number which the “caller” will use to “help” you get your relief money faster or “reinstate” your social security account.
These crooks are also sending fake emails for fake charities that look perfectly real, all with the goal of trying to steal your personal information. They will guide you to fake websites intended to place surreptitious programs, called malware, on your computer, tablet or phone, and loot your accounts at their leisure.
It has been shown that when people know about scams, they don’t fall for them. Now that you know what’s going on, you have all the power. You can beat them by simply hanging up your phone or deleting their texts and emails. Scammers are much like hungry lions waiting for their food. Don’t you be the one to feed the them.
Stay safe and healthy!