Police warn of scam COVID-19 text messages

Sources: WJLA.com; WSET.com

Police are warning cell phone users of a new text message scam during the coronavirus pandemic.

An “alert” from an Indiana area code told someone that they need to self-isolate because they came in contact with someone who tested positive, or is asymptomatic (positive but not showing symptoms) for coronavirus. The message also tells you to get tested.

A legitimate contact tracing effort usually includes a call to educate people and tell them if they are at risk and what they should be on the lookout for.

The police believe it could be a phishing scam to get your personal information. “DO NOT click the link!” they wrote on Facebook. “It is not a message from any official agency. The virus is not the only invisible enemy — be vigilant against all threats!”

Seniors are reporting to the Better Business Bureau (BBB) about receiving text messages from scammers posing as the U.S. Department of Health, telling them they need to take a mandatory online COVID-19 test in order to receive the recently approved government stimulus payment. The BBB says other seniors report receiving emails stating they qualify for a payment and to click on a link to claim a check.

Not unlike the way viruses mutate to survive, scammers will constantly change their tactics to catch people, especially seniors, off guard. Here are some tips to protect against scams:

Don’t be afraid to contact someone. Reach out to a family member, neighbor, or a company or organization you trust for advice. Research shows that individuals living alone, widowed, or those feeling isolated from others are more likely to lose money to scams. If a scammer tries to keep you on the phone or rush you to a decision, hang up and ask someone for advice.

Avoid “miracle” product claims that will help protect you or your home from COVID-19 (other than a Lysol-like disinfectant when used regularly and often on your home’s common surfaces and as an aerosol).

Be wary of offers sounding too good to be true. Scammers look for individuals trying to “catch up” or “get ahead” financially. If your retirement investments have been affected of late by the market’s ups and downs – don’t panic. Periods of high emotion are rarely the right time to re-evaluate your financial future. Instead, contact a trustworthy financial advisor.

Be smart and aware. Knowing about ongoing scam activities significantly reduces the likelihood of you falling for frauds and scams. When someone contacts you about an “amazing opportunity,” your knowledge about scams makes it easier to separate fact from fiction, truth from lies.

To report any instance of scam calls, please file a complaint with the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs online, or call 973-504-6240.

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