Local authorities are warning of two scams related to COVID-19. One that preys on residents who might be having a hard time financially and another promising a possible cure for the virus.
Mobile Executive Director of Public Safety James Barber said one scam promises to deliver a stimulus check via a phone or email.
“They’re calling you and saying ‘this is so-and-so from the Department of Revenue,’” Barber said.
The scammer then asks for the potential victim’s banking information, promising to deposit a $1,200 stimulus check, Barber said.
“You know, people want that money,” he said. “People are desperate for money, so they give it to them. What happens is they just wipe out your bank account.”
This particular scam targets those in low-to-middle income brackets, Barber said, or those who may have been laid off recently, if a scammer has that information.
“If they could break into a database, like people receiving unemployment, or people receiving Social Security, you know, stuff like that,” he said. “Those are the people they can target.”
To avoid being a victim of this particular scam, Barber said, area residents should be aware the federal government doesn’t ask for banking information. In fact, Barber said, the stimulus funds should be distributed via information given on a person’s tax forms.
“They will never call or email you and ask for your banking information,” he said. “They’re just not going to do that. That’s one quick way to know you’re about to be scammed.”
There’s another scam promising a COVID-19 vaccine for a price, Barber said.
“They put it out on the social media that they have a vaccine, or the medicine that will kill it, or they’ve got the home test kits,” Barber said. “[It’s successful because] they can touch billions of people.”
Aside from the scam itself, the promise of a fake vaccine or medication is causing problems in the supply chain for actual test kits and remedies, Barber said. He had a shipment of antibody test kits held up at customs, he said, because of the fear of “fake stuff” coming onto the market.
“That’s causing the people who really do need medicine problems,” Barber said.
To avoid this scam, Barber recommended not doing anything medically without a doctor’s guidance. He also recommended residents who need to be tested take advantage of the city’s testing site at Ladd-Peebles Stadium, which is manned by USA University Hospital staff members. The site is open from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. Call ahead to 888-USA-2650 for a screening appointment.
As of right now there’s not a lot of data on where these scams originate from, Barber said. It could be another country or it could be home-grown.
“Some of it is originating outside of the country, but you also have criminals here that are taking advantage of people,” he said. “The big deal is it’s easier for us to enforce here than it is someone in Nigeria or something. It’s a big problem and the biggest thing is to make people aware and not fall into that greediness thinking that they’re going to get this check.”
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