COVID-19 Scam Alerts from the NH Department of Justice

NH DOJ picture
(https://www.doj.nh.gov/covid-19-scams/index.htm)

 

Protect yourself and others from scammers taking advantage of the COVID-19 Pandemic.

 

Report a Scam:

Contact the Consumer Protection Hotline

Phone: 1-888-468-4454

Email: DOJ-CPB@doj.nh.gov

 

Scams Targeting Aging Adults:

 

Social Security Scam

Scammers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) call a recipient and claim that due to the closing of SSA offices, the recipient's benefits will be interrupted unless he or she provides personal identifying information, such as a social security or bank account number. The truth is that the SSA, despite its closure of some offices, has advised that these closures should not interrupt receipt of benefits. Importantly, the SSA will not call a recipient unexpectedly and ask for personal information over the telephone. If you receive a call like this, hang up, and report it to the SSA.

Medical Scams

Scammers are calling aging adults pretending to be a family member (often a grandson or granddaughter) and claiming they are in need of money to treat COVID-19 symptoms. Sometimes, the caller will ask the aging adult to send gift cards or cash for payment. These types of calls are called "Grandparent scams." They can be frightening and distressing. If you receive a call like this, you should hang up immediately. You are encouraged to reach out to the alleged family member or other trusted individual using a known telephone number to verify. Further, you should be skeptical of any random telephone call you receive requesting money, and in particular gift cards and cash.

Scammers are contacting individuals by telephone, e-mail, and sometimes in-person, offering COVID-19 home test kits, medicines, or vaccinations. Currently, no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, medications, or other prescription or over-the-counter products are available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease. This applies to offers made online, in stores, by electronic message, or over the telephone. Please do not allow any individual offering these products into your home. If you encounter someone claiming to offer such products, contact local law enforcement.

Stimulus Scams

With many aging adults set to receive stimulus payments from the federal government, scammers are calling, texting, and e-mailing aging adults claiming to work for federal agencies, such as the Internal Revenue Service, and that they are in need of the aging adult's personal identifying information prior to stimulus payment disbursement. Please know that no federal agency is going to call, text, or e-mail requesting social security, banking, or any other personal identifying information. If you receive such a call, hang up. As with any scam telephone call, do not push any buttons for "more information." If you receive a text message or e-mail of this nature, delete it and do not click on any links within the message.

Fake Charity Scams

Scammers are contacting aging adults claiming to be from reputable charities or otherwise fictitious charitable organizations, seeking donations for a variety of causes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of these scammers request payment in the form of gift cards or electronic currency, such as bitcoin. You should be skeptical if you receive a call unexpectedly from a "charity" requesting a donation. Donate only to charities that you know and trust and only after you independently verify that the payment/donation system is safe and secure.

 

How to Protect Yourself and Aging Adults

All people are encouraged to assist aging adults, and specifically those who may be especially vulnerable, in their efforts to avoid falling victim to these and all other scams. Recommendations for assistance include:

For those who care for an aging parent or other adult, practicing added vigilance and not providing the personal, identifiable information of an aging adult, without verifying the recipient's identity;

While maintaining appropriate social distancing and adhering to the Emergency Orders in place in New Hampshire, checking in with aging friends and relatives by phone or other electronic means;

Asking questions of aging friends and relatives about what they are doing, who they have heard from, and if they need supplies or assistance; and

Ultimately assisting any aging adult if and when there is a reasonable belief that they have fallen victim to a scam.

 

Employment Security Scams

New Hampshire citizens are encouraged to practice increased vigilance when asked to provide personal information over the telephone or via email by entities claiming to provide unemployment benefits as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak.

While we have not yet seen a specific case in New Hampshire, we know that government benefits are an attractive target for scammers and want people to be prepared to prevent themselves from falling victim to this type of scam.

Helpful Tips

New Hampshire Employment Security (NHES) will never send you a text asking for information.

While NHES will call individuals and will send email messages providing and requesting information. They will never send you a text providing or requesting information.

NH Employment Security will never ask for your credit card information.

While NHES does need to request personal information in order to be able to determine eligibility for benefits and to then pay those benefits, the department will never request your credit card information. If such a request is made, immediately hang up the phone or if requested on a website, then immediately close the website and browser and then delete your browsing activity from your PC or smartphone.

When in doubt hang up and call the hotline.

Caller ID can be masked so beware of incoming calls. If you receive a call and feel uncomfortable providing information to the caller because you are unsure of its legitimacy, Hang up immediately and call back the unemployment assistance hotline at (603) 271-7700, to ensure you are speaking with a real representative from New Hampshire Employment Security.

New Hampshire Employment Security does not partner with any outside organizations in the processing or payment of unemployment benefits.

If you receive a call from someone representing themselves as "partnering" with New Hampshire Employment Security to process unemployment claims due to the high volume, this is a scam. Hang up immediately! Only state employees process claims and payments.

Filing for Unemployment Benefits is free.

The State of New Hampshire processes unemployment claims for free. Customers should stay away from any site that charges a fee for this service.

Return Calls being made during non-traditional business hours.

New Hampshire Employment Security is experiencing unprecedented volume on both its website and the hotline. This requires agency representatives to make return calls to people outside of normal business hours, including nights and weekends. Receiving a return call outside of normal business hours is therefore not unusual in this current environment. However, if you are unsure then hang up!

Protect Yourself from Unemployment Benefit Scams

Hang up the phone if you are uncomfortable. If you previously registered for New Hampshire unemployment benefits at www.nhes.nh.gov/ call back the Unemployment Assistance Hotline at (603) 271-7700;

Never provide any personal information such as your social security number or date of birth without verifying the person with whom you are communicating;

Never provide any banking information without verifying the person with whom you are communicating;

Never deposit suspicious or unexpected checks into your account. Remember that even if your bank makes funds available from a deposit that does not mean the check is good. It could still be fraudulent or forged and you could be responsible to replace those funds;

Never wire funds to strangers. Make sure you know the person very well before sending them money through a wire service like Western Union or MoneyGram;

Do not open any unsolicited emails or attachments if they are not from a familiar or trusted source or contain suspicious subject lines or no subject line at all even if from a recognized sender;

Beware of emails that link to a website that lacks details about who is running the company, where it is based or does not have a phone number to contact the company; and

If the offer appears "too good to be true", it probably is.

 

Charitable Giving Scams

New Hampshire citizens should be on the alert for charitable giving scams related to the COVID-19 outbreak.

Scammers may take advantage of fears related to COVID-19 outbreak by establishing fake charities, and sending seemingly legitimate emails with malicious links or attachments.

Be Careful When Making Charitable Donations

Before making donations to support those who are ill or suffering financially because of the COVID-19 outbreak, do your homework:

If the appeal claims to be from a charity, make sure that it is registered with the Attorney General's Charitable Trusts Unit. The list may be found here: https://www.doj.nh.gov/charitable-trusts/;

If the appeal is for an individual, think hard about donating unless you know the person needing help and that person's circumstances;

Do not let anyone rush you into making a donation;

Check that you are dealing with a legitimate charity or individual and not an "imposter" with a deceptively similar name;

Do not assume that social media recommendations for donations are legitimate.

 

 

Stimulus Payment Scams

The United States Congress recently passed a large COVID-19 relief and stimulus package that promises to provide financial relief to many Americans. Scammers have recently attempted to use the promise and anticipation of stimulus payments to acquire personal identifying information [PII] from unsuspecting victims.

In a recent example of how scammers are trying to use the anticipation of stimulus payments to collect PII, emails that appeared to be from the United States Treasury Department were sent by scammers claiming that the recipient was selected as one of the first to receive a stimulus payment. The phony email requested that the recipient provide PII including phone number, date of birth and profession in order to receive a stimulus payment.

What You Should Know

The Internal Revenue Service recently released guidance informing the public that most people do not need to take any action in order to receive stimulus payments.

Government agencies are not sending out emails asking for personal information in order to receive funds or other pandemic relief opportunities.

How to Protect Yourself

Any request via a phone call, text message or email for personal identifying information, or any other information as a prerequisite for receiving a stimulus payment should be heavily scrutinized.

Do not engage with callers or emails from unrecognized sources.

Do your homework, ask questions and use the IRS website for accurate information.

New Hampshire residents who receive requests for information in exchange for a stimulus payment should contact the Consumer Protection and Antitrust Bureau of the Attorney General's Office.