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2020 Fraud Alerts

March 2020

Checks from the Government
Some important information from the Federal Trade Commission

As the Coronavirus takes a growing toll on people’s pocketbooks, there are reports that the government will soon be sending money by check or direct deposit to each of us. The details are still being worked out, but there are a few really important things to know, no matter what this looks like.

1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.

2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.

3. These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.

Look, normally we’d wait to know what the payment plan looks like before we put out a message like this. But these aren’t normal times. And we predict that the scammers are gearing up to take advantage of this.

So, remember: no matter what this payment winds up being, only scammers will ask you to pay to get it.

If you become a victim of one of these scams, please contact the Bucks County Consumer Protection Department via email at consumerprotection@buckscounty.org If you do not have access to a computer, please call the office at 215-348-6060.


Scammers taking advantage of Coronavirus fears

The Bucks County Department of Consumer Protection wants residents to be aware of potential scams surrounding the Coronavirus. Consumers can expect to see a wide range of coronavirus-related scams over the coming weeks and months. These scams will prey on our fears about how and where the virus is spreading. Be aware of phishing scams such as fake government agency warnings about infections in your local area, vaccines and treatment offers, medical test results, health insurance cancellation, alerts about supply shortages, and many other inflammatory claims meant to illicit an immediate response out of fear.   

The FTC and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the Coronavirus. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver. There are many immunity support type supplements on the market today however none should be making false claims that they can treat or prevent the Coronavirus.

The FTC says these companies have no evidence to back up their claims, which is required by law. The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.

Avoiding Coronavirus Scams

Here are some tips to help you keep the scammers at bay:

•Beware that criminals use email, websites, phone calls, text messages, and even fax messages for their scams.

•Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know in a text message or e-mail. These links could download viruses or malware onto your computer or device.

•Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease.

•Do your homework when it comes to charitable donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.

•Watch for emails or texts claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have important information about the virus. Scammers may send phishing links in these fraudulent messages. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) websites directly. These websites are easy to remember and have direct links for information on their main pages; www.cdc.gov and www.who.int

•There is also helpful information about Coronavirus on the Pennsylvania State Department of Health website. www.health.pa.gov

•The Bucks County Department of Health asks for your cooperation in going to the CDC or State websites for answers to your questions and concerns instead of calling their department. This will allow their staff to receive updates and answer calls coming from the State DOH, doctor’s offices, hospitals and other healthcare providers regarding this disease outbreak. Coronavirus is a rapidly evolving situation that the Bucks County Department of Health is monitoring with local, state & federal agencies.


Distraint Warrant SCAM

The Bucks County Department of Consumer Protection would like to make Bucks County residents and businesses aware of an emerging scam targeting area residents and businesses alike. Letters, like the one attached, have been sent through the US Postal Service in official looking envelopes claiming to be from the “Benefits Suspension Unit, Bucks County, Public Judgment Records”.  The envelope attempts to scare residents to respond by stating “Immediate Action Required”. There is no such county agency and this is an attempt to scam consumers and businesses into paying a fake tax debt.  The enclosed letter has a heading claiming to be from the “Tax Processing Unit, Bucks County Public, Judgment Records”.  There is a bold heading claiming the notice is a “Distraint Warrant” which refers to a legal term related to the IRS power to levy and distrain to collect unpaid taxes. This is a scare tactic these scam artists are employing to spook consumer’s into paying a tax debt that doesn’t exist. There’s a toll free number listed on the letter, which may lead some consumers to believe that this is a legitimate communication. This is a fraudulent notice from a fictitious agency and residents should not call the number if they receive this scam letter.

HOW TO PROTECT YOURSELF FROM SCAMS:

  1. Never provide personal or financial information to an unknown source without verifying the authenticity.
  2. If you suspect you are on the phone with a scam caller, hang up the phone and contact the official agency or business the caller referenced by looking up the number independently.
  3. DO NOT call any unverified phone numbers that were provided by the caller, or received in a questionable e-mail, letter, or voicemail.

If you provided personal or financial information, or made payment to the scam artist, contact your local police to file a police report.  Consumers can also file a scam report through the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov.

Monthly Fraud Alerts brought to you by:
Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force

Bucks County District Attorney’s Office
215-348-6344

A Woman’s Place (AWP)
800-220-8116

Bucks County Area Agency on Aging
267-880-5700

Bucks County Office of Consumer Protection
215-348-6060

Bucks County Coroner’s Office
267-880-5040

Bucks County Register of Wills
215-348-6265

Network of Victim Assistance (NOVA)
800-675-6900

US Department of Health and Human Services/OIG
800-447-8477

24-Hour Hotline: 800-490-8505

 

January 2020 - 2019 In Review

February 2020 - Avoiding Tax Scams

March 2020 - Distraint Warrant Scam 
March 2020 - Scammers Taking Advantage of Coronavirus Fears
March 2020 - Important Information about Stimulus Checks

Fraud Alerts

The Bucks County Crimes Against Older Adults Task Force issues regular alerts on fraudulent practices and scams that could impact older adults. This information comes from local news sources and government agencies and is offered as a public service.

To see past Fraud Alerts, please go to the Fraud Alerts Archives.