Michelle Zehnder Fischer

Fischer

Our landscape is rapidly changing, due to the coronavirus, or COVID-19. In a short period, we have seen unprecedented demands on our health care system and professionals, our schools closing and preparing for distance learning, restaurants closing their doors to dine-in customers, and businesses allowing employees to work from home. Our community is working together to respond to these demands and to support our neighbors.

Unfortunately, there are individuals who are thinking about ways to take advantage of an individual’s fears about the current threat from COVID-19. People who scam others prey upon our fears and emotions. Individuals become more vulnerable in times of crisis. Here are some things to watch out for to avoid falling prey to a scam and to protecting your loved ones:

Fake Products — There are individuals and companies who are promising over-the-counter vaccines, treatments, cures, or other products claiming to prevent or cure COVID-19. Currently, there are no vaccines or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19.

Imposter Scams — Scammers may call or email, pretending to be from Medicare, the CDC, or other government agency, offering quick access to a test or vaccine. They will say that in order to get the test or vaccine, the caller needs a Medicare number or a credit card number to pay for the service. It is important to note that Medicare or other government agency will never call asking for a Medicare number or other payment method. Clicking on links in these emails may install viruses or other malware on a computer.

Government Checks — While there has been discussion about the government sending checks to citizens as a form of economic relief, the government had not done so when this article was prepared. The government will not call to verify a social security number, bank account, or credit card number. They will not call asking for payment of a fee before money is sent out. Finally, the government will not call with an offer to receive money earlier than others for a fee or upon verification of information.

Charities — During times of crisis, scammers do not hesitate to take advantage of the generosity of individuals. Before donating to any charity, whether it is specifically for COVID-19 relief or other charity, do your homework. Verify that it is a legitimate charity by researching it. Scammers often use names that sound like the names of real charities. If you are donating online, never donate by a wire transfer or gift card.

Misinformation — While this is not necessarily a scam, there is a lot of misinformation surrounding COVID-19. For up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit trusted websites such as the Centers for Disease Control at www.cdc.gov, the Minnesota Department of Health at www.health.state.mn.us, or the World Health Organization at www.who.int.

During this time, scammers may be rapidly evolving their tactics. It is important to do your research, do not rush to pay for anything, and if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. To stay updated on scams surrounding COVID-19, visit www.ftc.gov/coronavirus.

Michelle Zehnder Fischer is the Nicollet County attorney. Bonnie Petersen is the Nicollet County victim and witness coordinator.

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