The last few weeks have been filled with various laws and regulations being enacted as a response to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Along with it has been a surge in scam artist activity as criminals look to take advantage of people via cyber ploys, telephone and text messaging scams, and phony charity donation requests. Now more than ever, we are being relied on to help effectively guide our clients through these uncharted waters so that they can make strategic tax and business decisions. By having the facts from their trusted advisors, our clientele are able make more thoughtful, less emotional decisions and avoid the costly mistake of falling victim to preying scammers.
Here are our top 6 suggestions to help cut through the noise and recognize a scam:
- Check the “From” email address. Does the email sound like it is from a company or person you do business with but the email address is not known to you? This is a dead giveaway that the email is not from the person it claims to be from. Also, don’t click on any links or open any attachments in these emails – they may contain computer viruses.
- Hang up on Robocallers. Do not push any buttons. Simply hang up. Scammers are trying to sell anything and everything and often times pushing a button to “speak” to a live representative results in more robocallers.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out and we will all know more in the upcoming weeks as more information becomes available. Anyone who tells you they can get you money now is a scammer.
- Avoid panic applications for things like SBA loans. There are many fraudulent sites popping up that appear to be legitimate sites to complete applications on, however they are actually fraudulent sites where you are being enticed to upload sensitive information such as banking and records and tax returns. Consult with your tax and business professionals first who can help guide you to the legitimate channels where you can safely and securely apply.
- Donate to charities and organizations you know and trust directly. Beware of crowdfunding websites and never let anyone rush you into making a donation. Take the time to research your donation choice first to ensure the donation is going to where you think it is going to. Other signs that a donation ask may be fraudulent include if you are being asked to make a donation in cash, by wire transfer or gift card.
- Be aware of fake doctors notes and falsified COVID-19 testing results. The FBI has issued a warning to businesses in the private sector to be aware of employees looking to take advantage of the current pandemic. If an employee tells you they have tested positive for COVID-19 take the necessary steps to confirm the legitimacy of their claim. The FBI recommends employers contact medical providers listed on work excuse documents to confirm them. Not doing so can result in significant losses to a company and their employees that are unnecessary (not to mention detrimental) if in fact the employee is reporting false health claims.
When common sense is replaced by fear induced thinking, rarely are good or productive decisions made. Keep it simple – if something seems off to you – something probably is. Our team at Semaphore is committed to helping our clientele make healthy decisions during this stressful time. As your trusted advisors we strive to separate fact from fiction while putting your needs and the needs of your business first so we can help you thrive.