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Incidences of Identity Theft are Rising Due to the Pandemic

September, 2021

Take a quick check of news reported by the FBI and AP from the past 30 days, and you'll see plenty of identity theft cases being reported.

  • September 10 (FBI) Grand Jury indicts St. Louis man accused of Wire Fraud and Identity Theft
  • September 9 (FBI) Knoxville man sentenced to two years in prison for Aggravated Identity Theft
  • September 9 (FBI) Trio of cyber criminals plead guilty to conspiracy to  commit Fraud and Aggravated Identity Theft
  • August 31 (AP) Former state worker pleads guilty to Unemployment Fraud
  • August 26 (AP) Former postal clerk pleads guilty in ID Theft scheme
  • August 23 (AP) 2 men charged in a scheme to obtain fraudulent SBA loans

The head of the FBI's Financial Crimes Section, Steven Merrill, responded to questions about scams and crimes related to the COVID-19 pandemic. His responses are posted on the FBI.gov website and include the following insights and tips.

When asked why is this pandemic, or any disaster, such an opportunity for scammers and criminals, Merrill answered, "Unfortunately, criminals are very opportunistic. They see a vulnerable population out there that they can prey upon." Merrill advises to be on the lookout for the following:

Government Impersonators

One of the most prevalent schemes we're seeing is government impersonators. Criminals are reaching out to people through social media, emails, or phone calls pretending to be from the government. In some cases, they're even going door-to-door to try to convince someone that they need to provide money for COVID testing, financial relief, or medical equipment.

Fraudulent Cures or Medical Equipment

Right now, the threat we're most concerned about is fake cures or treatments for the virus. These "cures" can be extremely dangerous to your health-even fatal. You should never accept a medical treatment or virus test from anyone other than your doctor, pharmacist, or local health department.

Work-from-Home Fraud

People who are at home and out of work are vulnerable to work-from-home scams. If someone you don't know contacts you and wants you to urgently pay them in return for a "job," you are dealing with a criminal. Legitimate jobs will not ask you to pay them.

If you're in a role like this where you're being asked to send or move money, you're acting as a money mule, which is a federal crime.

Investment Fraud

One of the most lucrative schemes for criminals is offering you an opportunity to invest in a cure or treatment for the virus. The purpose of these get-rich-quick schemes is simply to defraud the investor. Any offer like this should be treated with extreme caution.

The government will not ask you for personal information to give you your financial benefits. Do not respond if you receive an email, text message, or phone call claiming to help you get your benefits.

If you are eligible to receive the benefits, your government check will be mailed to you or directly deposited into your bank account. (Note: The IRS has additional tips on how to avoid these types of scams.)

Also listed on FBI.gov are the following recommended precautions to help protect your identity:

  • Read your credit card and bank statements each month.
  • Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you made the call and trust the business or person.
  • Report suspicious transactions to your credit card company or bank.
  • Review a copy of your credit report at least once each year. Notify the credit bureau in writing of any questionable entries.
  • Shred any documents with personal or financial information on them.

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Legal Club offers a range of Identity Theft Protection plans that are available as a stand-alone identity theft solution or as part of our Group Legal Plans. Our Group Legal Plans provide a wide range of free and discounted legal care, financial, tax, and identity theft benefits. Plans include access to over 85,000 online forms such as Last Will and Testament and Power of Attorney forms. To learn more about the plans offered by Legal Club, browse this website or call us at 800-305-6816.

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