Holidays may bring COVID-related scams targeting seniors

    Billions of dollars are estimated to be lost by senior adults each year to scammers, according to the National Council on Aging.
    Now, with the confusion and fear over the coronavirus, it didn’t take scammers long to begin to capitalize.
    Federal, state and local officials across the country have alerted consumers, particularly older people, to be aware of several fraud schemes tied to the virus.
    People 65 and older often are targeted because they’re more likely to own their home, have retirement savings and have excellent credit.  
    Phone or social media-based scams often may target seniors; the caller may claim to be a medical organization saying that COVID-19 vaccine is ready and may ask for an over-the-phone payment.  
    The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have issued warnings against at least seven companies that the agencies say have been misbranding products as treatments or preventives against coronavirus.
    To date, no vaccine has been developed to prevent COVID-19.
    A tactic similar to the vaccine scam has some fraudsters calling or emailing, posing as professional cleaners or similar service providers, offering to sanitize homes or businesses.
    While there are businesses that specialize in this service, they are not typically engaged in randomly calling potential customers out of the blue.
    Likewise, the IRS cautions elderly taxpayers about telephone scams where the caller threatens to arrest the victim over the holidays for unpaid taxes. The caller usually demands immediate payment with a credit card or a prepaid debit card.  
    The IRS said it does not call taxpayers without first sending an official notice through the mail. Also, the agency will not demand immediate payment without allowing for questions or appeal of the amount owed.
    Nor will the IRS threaten to send police or other law enforcement to arrest you for non-payment.
    Charity scams are common regardless of what’s happening in the news, but fraudsters follow the headlines and COVID-19 is a prime way for them to claim they’re gathering donations for families that have been affected by the virus.

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