Attorney general josh stein: “what scammers do, what criminals do is strike when they see mass confusion, fear, uncertainty”
Utility scams are one of the biggest threats at the moment. Many Americans are behind on their utility bills. Scammers are taking advantage, calling customers and threatening to shut off a utility if they if they are not paid. Criminals will often request that payment be made in the form of a prepaid debit card or gift card. Duke Energy reported there are about 4,800 reports of these kinds of calls so far this year. That’s compared to about 7,000 for all of 2019.
“Your utility will not do that. They will not call you, threaten you and demand immediate payment,” said Attorney General Stein.
Stein said, using social security numbers they bought online, scammers in India are filling out fake unemployment applications. People not may not even realize their social security number was compromised it until you try to apply for benefits or until their human resources department asks an employed employee why they’ve applied for benefits.
“It’s going to be a major headache but you can still sort it out because you are still entitled to your unemployment insurance benefits,’ said Stein.
Isolated seniors may feel lonely during the pandemic. It makes them a target for rising romance scams.
“It always seems to be the one where consumers lose the most money. Some of the stories we hear is from folks who think they found the love of their life who turns out to be a scammer,” said John Breyault, vice president of the National Consumers League.
Scammers may also try to tug at the heart strings of seniors through whats called the puppy scam. Fraudulent advertisements for dog adoptions could attract those looking for companionship during the pandemic. It leads to a loss of serious money for those who fall for them, often seniors. “The closer we can come to our friends, neighbors, our loved ones who are older, the more important it will be in fighting this elder fraud industry,” said David Kirkman with North Carolina AARP Fraud Watch.
Kirkman said elder fraud is a multi-million dollar industry.
Stella Adams, housing chair with North Carolina NAACP, said housing and rentals scams are rising as people look for more affordable housing. Adams said fraudsters may take photos and videos of homes and try to pass them off as themselves. Scammers may use the excuse of social distancing and COVID-19 to keep you from seeing the property in person. They may ask you to send deposits and then disappear.
It’s often difficult to get back your money from these kinds of scams.
The best thing you can do is avoid sharing personal information online, remain educated and don’t send money to anyone you don’t know.
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