Part three of a series about common coronavirus scams and how you can protect yourself.

One of the more common coronavirus scams you may see during these uncertain times is the advance fee scheme. That’s because these types of scams can take advantage of both the uncertainty of the coronavirus and the large amounts of money available through stimulus checks, or economic impact payments.


How an Advance Fee Scheme Works

In its simplest form, an advance fee scheme is when a scammer reaches out to a victim promising to deliver something of value in exchange for a fee. Once the victim has paid the fee, the scammer is never heard from again and what was promised is never delivered.

But what’s tricky about these scams is that paying a fee or deposit in advance of receiving something is a pretty common practice with all sorts of transactions. There are plenty of legitimate businesses that require at least partial payment for goods or services up front.

So, when someone reaches out promising to deliver something for a fee, your first reaction may not be one of suspicion. And that’s exactly what scammers are hoping for.


Coronavirus Scams

When you combine the sense of fear or uncertainty many people are feeling about their health during the coronavirus pandemic with a business proposition that may not immediately arouse suspicion, you have a recipe for a surge in scams. Here’s some of the things a scammer might offer in exchange for a fee:

  • An introduction to a contact who can get you coronavirus vaccines, treatments or protective equipment.
  • Moving you to the “front of the line” to purchase vaccines, treatments or protective equipment.
  • The ability to get you or your family tested for the coronavirus.
  • Access to hard-to-find food items or household goods for you or your business.


Economic Impact Payment Scams

As we discussed in the first blog post of this series, the economic impact payments most Americans will receive provide another opportunity for scammers. Even though many have already started to receive their payments, there are still quite a few people who are waiting for their direct deposits or paper checks. Below are a few examples of things a scammer may promise in exchange for a fee:

  • The ability to get your economic impact payment as soon as possible.
  • An introduction to a someone at the Treasury Department or IRS who can get you a larger payment than what you’re eligible for.
  • Moving you to the “front of the line” to receive your payment.
  • Passing along your financial information to the IRS so you can be sure you’ll receive your payment.


Here Are the Facts

As appealing as some of these offers may be, the facts paint a different picture. For starters, economic impact payments happen automatically, and there’s nothing you or anyone else can do to speed up the process or change the amount you receive. If you need to submit your financial information to the IRS, you can do that yourself on their online portal.

In addition, the Food and Drug Administration has not approved any vaccines, drugs or products for treating or preventing the coronavirus. Though there have been clinical trials and experimental medicines given to people, those are only done under strict guidelines and under the supervision of medical professionals.


What You Should Look Out For

The only real limit to what an advance fee scheme may look like is the scammer’s imagination. The examples above are some of the more common scams that may appear during these times, but they are by no means a complete list. Given that, you should be on the lookout for these warning signs:

  • Someone reaches out to you unexpectedly, either through a phone call, email or on social media.
  • The person claims to work for a company you’ve never heard of and have a hard time researching.
  • Explanations for where the goods or services are coming from are confusing or change frequently.
  • You’re asked to pay as soon as possible or there’s an unexplained urgency to the deal.
  • There are last-minute changes to the deal or payment instructions.
  • The deal seems too good to be true.


Questions or Concerns?

We’re here to help with any questions or concerns you may have about keeping your finances secure – just reach out to your banker or give us a call at 800.497.8168, Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m.- 8 p.m. MST.

Didn’t catch the first article in this series? Get started here.