Seniors are among the most vulnerable to both the novel coronavirus and consumer scams related to it. Of course senior West Virginians are seeking information about how to prevent getting infected, so being skeptical is as important as it has ever been.
To help protect yourself from the opportunistic virus scammers:
- Know that vaccination and testing is FREE. If someone is asking you to pay, it's a scam.
- Recognize that URGENCY and SCARCITY are easily used by scammers to trick you into making bad decisions. Cavemen scammers probably used these tactics, they are so old and effective. Take a minute to breathe and consult your trusted sources before giving your money or your personal information to anyone no matter how much pressure you are under. In fact, the more pressured you feel the more likely you are about to get scammed.
- Know that the government IS NOT going to call you and ask for personal information for you to get vaccine or treatment. This is also true about the IRS, remember those scams? It's that time of year, they'll be coming around again soon, too.
- Don't rely on social media posts about vaccine or treatment or testing. VERIFY that information from the real sources, like your local health department https://dhhr.wv.gov/localhealth/pages/map.aspx, your Governor's website https://governor.wv.gov/Pages/default.aspx, the state Department of Health and Human Resources (DHHR) website https://dhhr.wv.gov/COVID-19/Pages/default.aspx.
- Be aware of scammers pretending to be COVID-19 contact tracers. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for your Medicare number, financial information, or attempt to set up a COVID-19 test for you and collect payment information for the test. If you want to verify that a call from a contact tracer is legitimate call your local health department. Learn more about this here http://seniorlegalaid.blogspot.com/2020/06/contact-tracer-or-scammer.html
- DON'T RESPOND to text messages, Facebook messenger, or other social media direct messages about virus testing, treatment, or vaccine, and don't click any links about it in messages. Even if the message is from someone you know scammers can hack your friends' accounts and deliver fake messages.
- PROTECT your personal information and don't give it out if you aren't sure. Get help figuring it out.
If you suspect you have been contacted by a scammer, or you have been the victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you are at least 60 years old and a West Virginia resident you can call WV Senior Legal Aid at 1-800-229-5068 for confidential advice about scams and other legal issues.