During times of crisis, most people do the right thing by looking after themselves, their loved ones, and their neighbors. Unfortunately, there are individuals who seek to take advantage of others when something disastrous (like the COVID-19 disease pandemic) grips the world.
There will always be criminal profiteers standing by, ready to pounce on people whose defenses may be down. And, right now, as we are all doing the best we can to stay safe during the Coronavirus pandemic, defending ourselves against scams may not seem like a high priority.
But, it should be.
Kokish & Goldmanis, PC specializes in helping our clients protect their assets. This can come in the form of estate and trust administration, assistance with dissolution of marriage proceedings, or probate litigation services. Or, it can come in the form of straightforward, common sense advice aimed at empowering you with the knowledge you need to stay safe during trying times.
Beware of These Coronavirus Ploys
As of the publishing of this blog post, there are no less than two dozen well-known scams currently making their rounds throughout the world. These scams are tailored to seem legitimate on their face; however, their ulterior motive is almost always the same: to separate you from your money, identity, or other assets.
The first step in defending yourself against these scams is to simply be aware of them. Here are some of the more treacherous scams to watch out for:
- Government impersonators. Right now, Americans are dealing with unprecedented job losses, reduced wages, and increased stress. They need relief, and they’re looking for it wherever they can. So, when an email comes in promising a tax rebate, financial ‘gift’, or other monetary promise from a seemingly legitimate governmental authority, it’s tempting to open it, click the link, and follow the instructions. However, please be cautious.
The IRS has made it clear that they are only using their official website (www.irs.gov) for any communications, transactions, or notifications related to economic stimulus and/or disbursement of Coronavirus-related relief of any kind. Do not trust any email, phone call, or other communication that you cannot factually verify as originating from the IRS itself.
- “Help Desk” scammers. As more and more US workers are moving to remote working situations, they’re having to rely on the use of Virtual Private Networks (VPNs), cloud-based collaboration tools (Google Docs, Slack, etc.), and online meeting platforms (Zoom, FaceTime). Not everyone knows how to use these systems, which can make it easy for a phony ‘help desk employee’ to seem like he or she is genuinely interested in helping you out.
Sadly, this scam often has the underlying objective of getting you to click a malicious link that will take you to a website or other online location where your identity may be compromised or the data on your computer might be accessed by criminals.
- Coronavirus donation scams. Cybersecurity researchers are noticing an uptick on the amount of fake donation solicitations being sent out by criminal organizations. These emails, text messages, and phone calls claim to be asking for donations to help those affected by the virus outbreak. However, it’s a near certainty that any donation you make using these channels is only going to end up lining the pockets of a cyber thief.
If you’re asked to send virtual currencies to anyone as part of a ‘Coronavirus Relief’ donation, do not do it. Only use reliable, reputable communication methods with established charitable organizations to do this.
Keep in mind that this is a very abbreviated list. There are so many different Coronavirus-related scams being attempted right now that it would be impossible to list them all in this blog post. Follow the time-tested advice of always being skeptical about any official-looking communication that is requesting you to send money anywhere or enter your personal details on a website you’ve never heard of.
Estate Planning Scams
The reality is that even when disasters like the Coronavirus are not affecting millions of Americans, there will still be estate planning scams thriving in the world.
Some of the worst offenders in this arena are known as trust mills, and they target elderly or disabled individuals.
A trust mill is often represented by dishonest salespeople who claim to be able to protect your assets from forfeiture or seizure by the government after death. In reality, what they’re peddling is a one-size-fits-all estate plan. Sometimes, these trusts are called “Pure Equity” or “Constitutional” trusts, or a “Living Trust Kit”. All they really want to do is take your money in exchange for a cookie-cutter estate plan that doesn’t benefit you.
At Kokish & Goldmanis, PC, our number one priority is your safety and security. Please remain vigilant against scammers during this time, and don’t hesitate to contact us for help with your estate planning, family law, or civil litigation needs.