By Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt
The situation surrounding the COVID-19 outbreak has created many new avenues for scammers to take advantage of the public’s apprehension and uncertainty. The Kansas Attorney General’s office and our In Your Corner Kansas campaign is always focused on protecting consumers from scams and rip-offs, but as the U.S. and the world continue to respond to the coronavirus pandemic, we wanted to remind Kansans to be diligent and to keep yourself and your personal information safe.
One way for the attorney general’s office to help is to share with you a comprehensive collection of the different types of scams reported to our office during the pandemic relating to COVID-19. Here is a list of general descriptions of those complaints so you can know what to watch out for:
COVID-19 prevention scams. We’ve seen scammers claim that they have a product that will prevent you from contracting coronavirus. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is currently no vaccine to prevent contracting the disease.
Text message scams. There are primarily three types of text messages scams that have been reported to our office – all aimed at stealing your personal information. One claims to offer cash assistance if you’re struggling financially during the pandemic. Another claims your government stimulus check is ready and to click a link to receive it. The last one claims that you may have been in contact with someone who has tested positive or is exhibiting symptoms and recommends you self-isolate and get tested with an accompanying link for more information. All of these are scams and as a general rule you should never click on any text message links relating to COVID-19 or anything else from a sender you do not know.
Small Business Administration (SBA) imposter. The real website for the SBA is www.sba.gov. We’ve seen other websites impersonating the SBA attempting to steal personal information under the guise of a small business loan application. Remember that government websites are almost always going to end with a “.gov” URL and that government agencies typically contact you by mail, so always be leery of anyone reaching out to you by email, text message or phone call claiming to be from the government.
Fake mask or other personal protective equipment (PPE) sellers. Like with any other product, you always need to be careful shopping online by verifying you’re shopping on a secure website, guarding your personal information, paying with a credit card and saving receipts.
Unemployment benefits fraud. Numerous consumers have received letters from the Kansas Department of Labor (KDOL) stating their unemployment claim has been processed when in fact they had never filed for unemployment benefits. This is an identity theft issue, and it’s likely someone else has filed using their personal information in an attempt to capture those benefits. If you have received a letter from KDOL regarding your benefits being processed and you have not filed for unemployment, file a report with KDOL by phone at (785) 581-7300, online at www.dol.ks.gov/fraud or by email at email@example.com.
More information on how to protect yourself from these and other scams is available on our consumer protection website at www.InYourCornerKansas.org or by calling our consumer protection hotline at (800) 432-2310.