Be aware of COVID 19 scams – security tips to protect your bank account and home
It’s clear that, while devastating, the COVID-19 pandemic is bringing out the best in most people across America. Many are expressing heartwarming gratitude for healthcare workers, first responders, grocery workers, food suppliers, truckers, small businesses, and others. Unfortunately, a small subset of people is using COVID-19 as an opportunity to scam and defraud people.
At Alert 360, we work with a quarter of a million home and business security customers. As part of our work providing monitored security, we keep an eye on other security threats that might impact our customers. So far, Americans have reported more than 18,000 incidents related to COVID-19 fraud. These incidents equate to over $13 million dollars in potential loss according to Paul Witt of the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Although robocalls are down, the FTC is seeing an increase in people claiming to be the government in an attempt to scam consumers from government stimulus money. In addition, other top scam-related complaints involve travel, online shopping, bogus text messages, and similar fraudulent activity.
Some scams include websites promising scarce cleaning products or masks, which never arrive after being ordered, or fraudulent help related to reimbursement for canceled travel. Even at Alert 360, we have been the victim of scams as we attempt to go order PPE and cleaning supplies for our employees. We have experienced fake tracking numbers and packages that have a smaller number of supplies than we ordered.
Our primary services are life safety, alarm monitoring, security and home automation. As part of keeping families and businesses secure, we also suggest the following tips and information to help protect your identity and bank accounts.
Protect yourself from fraud when ordering online:
• Use a credit card that offers protection and the ability to dispute charges if possible.
• If ordering off an auction site, determine if the seller and inventory is truly domestic. Some supplies from overseas can be delayed for up to a month or longer.
• If ordering from an online marketplace or auction site, check how long the seller has been around. Look very carefully at their feedback, items they have sold in the past, and what they are selling now. If, for example, they have only sold auto parts and are suddenly selling surgical masks, you should be leery.
• Once you order, closely track the item. Some sellers will print a shipping label in order to get a tracking number they can share but will then not ship the merchandise for some time or never at all. There is usually a 24-hour delay between when you receive a tracking number and when you can see the item moving. If it takes longer than that and you do not see your package moving through the shipping process, contact the seller immediately and be prepared to ask for a refund.
• If you feel you are a victim of a COVID-19 related scam, contact the FTC directly at ftc.gov/complaint.
Protect yourself from email scams:
Cybercriminal activity and phishing email scams also are increasing. We encourage you to question every email before you click on a link or take action.
Follow these best practices to protect your identity and accounts:
• Look closely at the sender’s email address. Most organizations won’t contact you from a personal email domain such as @gmail.com or @aol.com. Typically, a legitimate sender would have a company domain, such as @Alert360.com.
• Doublecheck spelling. Misspellings or spellings that are just a few letters off in a company name or email domain can also be signs of a fake or phishing email. Pay close attention to spelling.
• Read the email closely for bad grammar, misspellings or poor writing. These are most likely signs of a scam.
• Be wary of attachments or links. One thing phishing emails have in common is most will either contain an infected attachment or link to a bogus website. The website might require a login or other personal information.
• Be wary of requests for a phone call. Much like suspicious attachments or links, some scammers will request you call a specific phone number and then ask for sensitive information. If you’re concerned, it’s good practice to use a phone number you already have for the company and not one sent in an email.
• Don’t feel pressured to respond. Another common scam is someone such as a company CEO, someone you work with or a family member asking for quick action and pressure to respond. Be aware of this tactic and don’t respond.
• Be safe, not sorry. When in doubt, delete the email without clicking, calling or responding.
For additional tips, see our past blog Protect Your Identity and Avoid these Common Scams.
Protect yourself from in-person fraud:
Alert 360 has also seen an increase in people going door-to-door, attempting to convince home security customers to change their security providers. Some door-to-door scammers attempt to gain access to homes or to bank account information using deceptive tactics and pressure. Alert 360 customers who have been approached under false pretenses, should call Alert 360 immediately at 888-642-4567.
Check out our Scam Alert webpage for more information about home security scams. You can also learn more in the following blogs:
Know what to do when faced with price gouging:
Almost all states have instituted severe price gouging penalties. If a seller charges a higher-than-usual price (usually 10% or more) for a commodity considered essential under a state of emergency or public health crisis, that is price gouging.
While each state might include various products in their statutes, some products covered under COVID-19 declarations often include:
• protective masks
• sanitizing and disinfecting supplies, such as hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes, supplies for surface cleaning, and commercial cleaning supplies
• personal protective equipment (PPE), including gowns, booties, gloves and other protective gear
• COVID-19 test kits, swabs, and related consumable medical supplies used in administering tests
• medicines, personal care, and childcare products
• potentially communications and computer equipment used for working remotely
If you feel you are the victim of price gouging, contact your state’s consumer protection agency for instructions on reporting it.
Please know COVID-19 will not prevent Alert 360 from continuing to provide you with our industry-leading customer service. Your safety is of the utmost importance, and we are always here to assist you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year.
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About Alert 360
Founded in 1973 in Tulsa, Okla., Alert 360 is the nation’s fifth-largest provider of monitored security and smart home solutions to homes and businesses in the United States. Alert 360 operates it’s own monitoring and customer service centers in Tulsa, Oklahoma and Irving Texas. Alert 360 has branch offices in 17 metropolitan cities as well as 100’s of authorized dealers serving customers coast to coast. The company has achieved the Five Diamond alarm monitoring designation from the The Monitoring Association and has been named a 2016 Inc. 5000 “Fastest-Growing Privately Held Company in America” and a “Best Places to Work in Oklahoma” in 2016, 2017, 2018 and 2019. In 2019, Alert 360 was voted as the top winner for “Best Home Security” by The Journal Record Reader Rankings poll.