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The coronavirus pandemic has led scammers to exploit new fears, and authorities say many of the targets of these programs are the elderly.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, seniors are more likely to get ripped off – and ripped off with more money – than younger people. In Florida, more than 24% of the population are seniors, making the Sunshine State a hub for fraudsters and scammers.
“Never answer emails, texts or automated calls with financial information,” said Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who is actively educate residents on COVID-19 scams. “No one in the federal government will reach out this way.”
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In addition to online and telephone scams, scammers even take a face-to-face approach to trick Americans.
“People come to the doors in lab coats pretending to be [from] the CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention]Explains Moody. “You will not have representatives from the CDC or an unsolicited doctor’s office. Don’t let them in. Call and report to law enforcement. “
Pandemic hoaxes are not much different from traditional scams that consumers may encounter online or over the phone, depending on Kathy Stokes, Director of Fraud Prevention Programs at the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).
“The crooks make the headlines,” says Stokes. She explained that many scams come in the form of automated calls or text messages, but one particular drawback to watch out for is the emergence of fake coronavirus testing sites.
In Kentucky, fake test centers have been set up as part of a Medicaid fraud operation. The aim of the scammers was to collect a so-called “test fee” of around $ 240 as well as money on false Medicaid claims, Metro Council President David James told Louisville WDRB station.
Stokes says the scammers target the elderly because they are presumed to have more money in the form of savings and pensions.
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The scams targeting Americans at a time of economic uncertainty have come from foreign and domestic sources, and Stokes recommends reporting all incidents to law enforcement.
In addition to advice from Moody and Stokes, FTC advises Americans to “ignore online offers of immunizations and home test kits” and be informed before donating money to an organization.