HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — Harris County Attorney Vince Ryan wants residents to beware of scams using coronavirus to try to trick you out of money and/or personal information.
Ryan said crooks are using the fear of COVID-19 as a way to defraud and steal from people via emails, texts and phone calls. In one recent instance, a Houston-area couple was scammed in person, Ryan said.
“It is unfortunate that bad people will use something like the coronavirus to commit crimes like this,” said County Attorney Ryan. “This couple not only lost precious possessions, they could have been seriously hurt.”
COVID-19 scams come in many forms. Here are a few Ryan says you need to be on the lookout for:
- Some will try to sell you tests, miracle cures or treatments for the virus you can take at home—there is no such thing.
- Some will ask you for personal or financial information, such as your Medicare number—do not provide any such information.
- Some will claim to be from Medicare or Social Security and ask for your numbers—do not give out those numbers. The government already has your numbers and will never contact you in an email or by phone, only by letter.
- You do not need to pay a fee to the IRS in order to get your stimulus payment, as one scam tries to convince you.
- Some will try to get you to buy a hot new stock related to the virus—this is a scam.
Here are some guidelines that will help you avoid being the victim of any scam:
- Never click on a link or attachment in an email or text from someone you don’t know.
- Never provide your personal information (address, date of birth, banking information, ID numbers) to people you do not know. Remember, government agencies will never ask you for personal information or money.
- Do not be pressured into making fast decisions.
- Take time to research a supposed charity organization. Look at its website and check it out with the Better Business Bureau.
“This virus is bad enough without having to deal with crooks who will use it to obtain your money or personal information,” said County Attorney Ryan. “Always be skeptical of people you don’t know reaching out to you for something. Do your due diligence. Don’t fall for their scams.”
There are new scams that pop up daily, Ryan says. But government agencies, including the FBI, the Federal Trade Commission, the Federal Communications Commission, the Food and Drug Administration and the Securities and Exchange Commission, are all working to shut down scammers.
To report a scam or attempted scam related to COVID-19, please call County Attorney's office at 713-755-5101. You can also call the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or email the agency.