Illustraion of covid-19 scam and fraud alert on mobile phone

SEATTLE -- Scammers are taking advantage of Americans' heightened state of anxiety during the coronavirus pandemic.

Kay Tomlinson is a fraud-prevention specialist in Washington state with the AARP Fraud Watch Network. She said there are a variety of scams circulating right now, including "can't-miss" investment opportunities and fraudulent calls from the IRS about stimulus payments.

Tomlinson said people also are claiming in calls and emails to have a cure or treatment for COVID-19.

"Any time you're contacted directly about any type of a treatment or a vaccine or some new development in terms of coronavirus, you should be aware that you're going to hear about that in news first," Tomlinson said.

Tomlinson said organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control or IRS do not contact individuals directly, so be weary of anyone claiming to be from those agencies. She said people also should avoid clicking links in emails that look suspicious.

In some cases, scammers are telling people they've been overpaid on their stimulus checks and are asked for their personal information or to send the money back. There also are automated calls claiming to deliver supplies to folks, such as this one recorded by the robocall-blocking service Nomorobo.

"Due to coronavirus outbreak, we deliver a wide range of sanitizers, hand wash, toilet papers and face masks at your doorstep to safeguard you and your family from coronavirus. No need to visit stores," the scam message says.

Tomlinson said the best advice to keep in mind is if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

"If you stop and think, 'Why are they calling me?' Listen to that little voice and really pay attention to that because that can be your guide," she said.

Tomlinson added that people can report scams to the Federal Trade Commission's website at FTC.gov and can go to the AARP Fraud Watch Network's website to see which scams are active in their area.

Tomlinson and others also are delivering virtual fraud-prevention presentations for free to Washingtonians. A schedule of presentations is available here.

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