Pandemic Related Hazards Tsunami

Pandemic Related Hazards

I am urging all of you to be aware of an escalating number of pandemic related hazards. There is a full menu of scams, fraud and financial challenges lurking. Fraudsters are having a field day exploiting the uncertainties caused by the Coronavirus outbreak – COVID-19. They are using your fear and vulnerability as a weapon.

Here’s some examples of what these criminals are up to: From price gouging that’s preventing purchases of critical supplies, to fake products – promising cures; from loan payments to travel cancellations, from work-at-home schemes to Government Imposters seeking your personal information. AND – that’s just the tip of the iceberg!

Surviving Pandemic Related Hazards
In the meantime – Educate Yourself

How to Protect Yourself from the Coming Pandemic Related Hazards

  • Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from fake coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. At this time, there is no cure or vaccination for COVID-19, and there are no FDA-authorized home test kits. Visit the FDA’s website to learn more.
  • Do not respond to texts or emails about checks from the government from contacts you do not know. If someone tells you they can get you money immediately, it is a scam.
  • Do not click on web links from unfamiliar sources. These links could download viruses onto your computer or device.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For reliable and up-to-date information and updates, it is always best to visit the CDC’s website or the World Health Organization’s website.
  • Do your research before donating to charities claiming to help with COVID-19 efforts. Be wary of donations that require payment in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.

If you think you are a victim of any of these pandemic related hazards involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home through a number of platforms:

Some Additional Tips

Please know that government, the IRS and businesses have policies in place that are rapidly changing. Therefore, if you are seeking the latest policy of a particular entity, it is best to directly check their website rather than clicking on links in emails or attachments.

Government imposters have begun calling about COVID-19 relief. Imposters will call victims and suggest that you may qualify for a Government grant, but you have to verify your identity to process your request. Variations of the scheme involve contacts through text messages and social media posts.

Scams Coming About Stimulus Checks

IRS Pandemic Related Hazards
DON’T TAKE THE BAIT

The IRS is warning taxpayers of a tsunami of calls and phishing attempts about COVID-19 Stimulus checks. These contacts can lead to tax-related fraud and identity theft.

Scammers will suggest that you can get your Stimulus check faster if you share personal details like your Social Security number and banking information and also require you to pay a “processing fee”. DON’T TAKE THE BAIT!

Stimulus checks are free money provided from the Government. You do NOT need to spend money to receive your check. There are no short-cuts – even for a fee. The IRS will deposit your check into the direct deposit info you entered on your tax return or alternatively they will mail you a check.

The IRS will never call you or ask you to verify payment details.  Do not give out your bank account information, your debit or credit card number, or your PayPal payment details to someone who contacts you unsolicited.

The IRS has a webpage with information about the COVID-19 Stimulus payments that is updated quickly whenever new information is available. Here is the link

It’s impossible for me to cover all of the upcoming pandemic related hazards. However, the details listed above are a good refresher, especially for those who have been reading my prior articles. Remember that recognizing the red flags is one of the best weapons against scams and fraud.

You can read my prior article about Coronavirus Phishing Emails here.

I wish you and your loved ones all the best. BE SAFE OUT THERE.

ANTI-ROBOCALL BILL

Finally, an Anti-Robocall Bill

As we celebrate the New Year, we can add another thing that is cause for celebration. Last Thursday, lawmakers passed the Anti-Robocall Bill!  It now awaits the President’s signature to become law.

“The U.S. Senate today sent Americans a holiday gift on everyone’s list: stopping the plague of robocalls,” said Sen. Ed Markey, a Massachusetts Democrat who introduced the legislation with Sen. John Thune, a South Dakota Republican.

All I can say is: Its About Time!!!

Americans received a staggering amount of robocalls in 2019. There were 49 billion calls placed. More robocalls have been placed in the first 10 months of 2019, than in all of 2018!

Anti-Robocall Bill

It’s been a five year battle to take back our phones from these incessant robocallers. The new law will hopefully put a larger dent in the number of calls received. It will decrease millions of ‘spoofed’ robocalls and crack down on spammers who intentionally violate the rules against calling us.

The organization, Consumer Reports (read more here) played a big role in the movement to make the Anti-Robocall Bill finally become a reality. They were instrumental in rallying millions of consumers to send emails, sign petitions, initiated letter writing campaigns and they even held a consumer lobby day.

Consumer Reports Anti-Robocalls Bills

GOOD NEWS & BAD NEWS

The Good News: The bill will make it easier for consumers to identity robocalls using a number-authentication system. The Bad News: It will still take awhile for the number of intrusive calls to decline.

The Anti-Robocall bill requires all telephone systems in the U.S implement a coordinated authentication methodology to improve the accuracy of the caller-ID displayed on our phones. In other words, the bill requires phone companies to offer free call-blocking apps that will verify that the number calling you is real. That’s been an issue, because fraudsters now use fake ‘spoofed’ numbers to look as though they’re coming from the IRS or others to trick you.

Robocaller
DON’T ANSWER IT! SEND IT TO VOICEMAIL

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) said that phone companies can now block unwanted calls without getting customers’ permission first, which could help increase the use of phone-blocking apps. The agency has said it expected the deployment of a new phone-number system to begin this year. Many major phone companies have already begun rolling it out, but to work well, all carriers must adopt it.

The Anti-Robocall bill also strengthens enforcement tools against robocallers, by giving the FCC more opportunities to fine them. It also brings together different government agencies and state attorneys general to help combat the problem.

The phone industry trade group, USTelecom, applauded the bill’s passage, saying it “will supercharge” the fight against robocallers.

I have written prior articles about Robocalls that you can read here and another one here.  My advice is simple. Never believe what you see on your caller-ID, only answer calls from numbers you recognize, hang up on robocalls or let them go to voicemail.

Wishing a Happy 2020 to all my readers.

ROBOCALLS AND PHONE SCAMS

The US Senate and the FCC has finally taken up the battle against Robocalls and Phone Scams. This federal intervention should provide much needed relief to consumers. Estimates of robocalls and phone scams have grown from 29% of all calls in 2018 to as much as 45% of all phone calls in 2019.

THE TRACED ACT

In May the US Senate approved the Telephone Robocall Abuse Criminal Enforcement and Deterrance (TRACED) Act by a 97-1 vote.  Don’t you just love how they come up with these nifty names?  Also, I wonder which Senator was the only one who didn’t think this legislation should be passed. The TRACED Act grants the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) stepped-up enforcement power to levy heavy penalties and fines against violators.

Additionally, the FCC voted unanimously to finally grant telecommunications companies the authority to use technology to proactively identify and block Robocallers.  A summit was held in July with carriers to identify a framework for implementing these new guidelines. The FCC says it is committed to pursuing “aggressive enforcement action” against Robocallers.

Robocalls and Phone Scams
STOP CALLING ME!!!

MOST ALL ROBOCALLS ARE ILLEGAL

Robocallers often place their calls using internet technology that hides their location. When these calls come in, your Caller ID usually displays a “spoofed” (fake) phone number. Tens of millions of these calls are blasted out each day. Most robocalls and phone scams are automated voice messages.

Industry stakeholders are working to implement a caller ID authentication system. Once implemented, it should help the accuracy of caller ID information and help consumers determine which calls are authenticated.

EXAMPLES OF 2 NEW ROBOCALL TACTICS

‘Neighborhood Spoofing’ and the ‘One Ring Scam’ are two of the newest tactics being used to get you to pick up or call back. Neighborhood Spoofing is when a fraudster alters their phone # to look like a phone number with the same area code as yours. The One Ring Scam involves a Robocaller hanging up after only one phone ring, hoping you’ll be curious enough to call back.

THWART ROBOCALLS AND PHONE SCAMS

  • Don’t Engage: Don’t pick up if it’s a number you don’t recognize. Let it go to voicemail.
  • Don’t Answer: Don’t pick up or return any calls you don’t recognize
  • Don’t Encourage Them: If you are instructed to press a “key” to be taken off their list or to speak to an operator you are, in essence, logging your number as a working number. You will be targeted for even more annoying calls. Hang up without pressing any keys!
  • Block Them: Block Robocall phone numbers on your phone, but realize that telemarketers change phone numbers often.
  • Use Technology: Use call blocking options for your cellphone
  • List: Add your number on the Do Not Call Registry  If your number is already registered and you still get unwanted calls, report them  to help expose and catch these fraudulent callers.
  • Forward: SPAM text messages to 7726 (or SPAM)
  • Report: File a Complaint to help investigators detect and track patterns in Robocalls. Call the Federal Trade Commission at 888-382-1222.

Read my prior article about Robocalls here.

FCC Consumer Resources

ROBOCALLS Telemarketing Phone Calls

ABOUT THOSE PESKY ROBOCALLS

Robocalls are designed to bait you into giving up your personal or financial information. Telemarketing fraud often begins with a Robocall. Unwanted calls are more than a mere annoyance – they are an invasion of privacy and a breeding ground for fraud and identity theft.

Robocalls broke a national record in March of this year (2018). Youmail.com reports that 3.15 billion Robocalls were placed in just the month of March alone. This is a 15% increase from the month before. This increase was driven by a big jump in telemarketing (up 19%) and scam calls (up 13%).

Consumer Reports estimates that Americans lose $350 million a year to scams involving Robocalls. Using today’s technology, tens of millions of Robocalls can be blasted out each day. We’ve all received these telemarketing pitches – like ‘Rachel from Cardholder Services’ or ‘Microsoft’ Imposters calling to warn you that you have a computer virus.

Robocalls
File a complaint with the FTC

MOST ROBOCALLS ARE ILLEGAL!

Only about 10% of Robocalls are actually legal and useful. Airlines can call to give flight updates. Schools can call to alert parents about closures. Doctors can call about appointment reminders. Also, non-profits, political and charitable organizations are allowed to call you too. Just beware of imposters!

Robocalls are usually autodialed or pre-recorded telemarketing calls. The scammers usually don’t know who they are calling and simply ignore the Do-Not-Call List. They oftentimes use prefixes that are the same area code that you live in and even use a phone number similar to yours – in the hopes that you’ll pick up the phone.

Don’t  believe what you see on Caller ID!

When these calls come in, your Caller ID usually displays “spoofed” (fake) phone numbers and/or “spoofed” names of legitimate organizations – like the IRS or a bank, or utility company.  Or, the Caller ID may show as “Unknown”. Robocallers often place their calls using internet technology that hides their location. From here on, you must never rely on what your Caller ID displays on your phone.

Robocalls Aren’t Going Away

Follow these tips to protect yourself from those pesky calls:

  • Don’t Encourage Them: If you are instructed to press a “key” to be taken off their list or to speak to an operator you are, in essence, logging your number as a working number. You will be targeted for even more annoying calls. Hang up without pressing any keys!
  • Don’t Engage: Don’t pick up if it’s a number you don’t recognize. Let it go to voicemail.
  • Block Robocall Numbers: Try contacting your phone service provider, but don’t pay extra for this type of service – since telemarketers change phone numbers often.
  • Forward any SPAM text messages to 7726 (or SPAM)
  • File a Complaint: This helps investigators detect & track patterns in Robocalls. Although most Caller IDs display numbers that are spoofed, report them anyway by calling the Federal Trade Commission at 888-382-1222 or go to ftc.gov/complaint
  • Sign the petition: at Consumers Union to help pressure Telephone Carriers to offer free call-blocking technology by going to: endrobocalls.org

 

ADDITIONALLY –  There’s an App for that

There are a number of apps that are free or for a small fee, will help prevent most, but not all Robocalls.

Here is the link for Android Phones: https://www.ctia.org/consumer-tips/robocalls/android-robocall-blocking

Here is the link for iPhones: https://www.ctia.org/consumer-tips/robocalls/ios-robocall-blocking

Here is a link for Landlines, that offers call blocking for free: https://www.nomorobo.com/

Interesting Factoids:

iPhone users get more robocalls than Android users. They received 29% more Robocalls than Android users, during the month of March. Also, AT&T users get more Robocalls than Verizon users.

Crooks who commit phone fraud are clever. They have to be – as this is the way they make their living. So, don’t engage with them. Instead – ALWAYS HANG UP ON ROBOCALLS OR LET YOUR CALLS GO TO VOICEMAIL!

Ringless Voicemail Technology Helps Telemarketers

Ringless Voicemail Technology – A Telemarketers Dream-Come-True 

New technology, known as Ringless Voicemail, just might become a Telemarketer’s latest weapon. If it becomes a reality, telemarketers will gain the upper hand in their battle against the current Do-Not-Call list rules.

Ringless Voicemail technology allows a telemarketer to contact you without your phone ever even ringing at all! It enables a telemarketer to have their calls sent directly to your voicemail.

Telemarketers are making the argument that this technology (marketing calls that go straight to your voicemail), is NOT subject to the Do-Not-Call rules because the phone never rings.

Ringless Voicemail Phonecalls
File a complaint with the FCC – BEFORE it’s too late!

The FCC is currently soliciting public comment on whether consumers think telemarketers should be allowed to use this new technology.

(see below on how to comment)

 

Reminder – Consumers can avoid most legitimate telemarketing calls if they sign up and register their phone numbers on the “Do-Not-Call list”. The free federal Do-Not-Call list makes it illegal for telemarketers to contact you, if your number is registered.

Many people complain that the Do-Not-Call list doesn’t work. That’s because fraudster telemarketers blatantly ignore the rules. Here is a link if you want to register your number: https://donotcall.gov/

Additionally, it’s important to know that most Robocalls are illegal! These annoying recorded telemarketing calls, ignore the Do-Not-Call list rules too.

TIP: Don’t ever press any buttons instructing you to press “1” or “O” to stop these calls or speak to someone. If you do, you’ll get even more Robocalls!

 

FYI  ~  Exceptions to the Do-Not-Call list & Robocall rules:

Legitimate Charities ~ Debt Collectors ~ Doctor appointments confirmations  Political Organizations ~ Surveys ~ Airline flight info

 

HERE’S HOW TO COMMENT ON THIS RINGLESS VOICEMAIL ISSUE

At present, there is no way to block undesired voicemails and this new technology will almost certainly add more undesirable voicemails! So, if you want to have a say on this issue, you need to contact the FCC.  Here is the link to do so: https://fcc.gov/ecfs/filings/express

Important: You will need to insert the following number of the proceeding, in the first line, as follows: 02-278.  Also, be sure to use the words “Ringless Voicemail” in the comment section. Your comments are public comments.