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How to Avoid COVID-19 Fraud

At Chemung Canal, the welfare of our employees, customers and the communities we serve remains the highest level of importance to us as the coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to disrupt our daily lives. 

Unfortunately, criminals are trying to take advantage of the uneasy atmosphere created by the coronavirus pandemic, being purposefully deceitful concerning testing kits, treatment products, charitable donations, vaccination news and the promotion of penny stock companies that claim to have treatments.

We want to continue sharing information regarding potential scams and fraud so that you can remain vigilant in your efforts to protect yourself against fraudsters. 

Below are some of the scams we have been monitoring:
 

Government Stimulus Check Scams

We encourage you to be on the lookout for a surge of calls, emails and texts related to the government stimulus checks that are being released.  Here are some quick tips that will help prepare you:

  • The formal term for these checks is “Economic Impact Payments,” so an email or text message with the term “stimulus check” could be fraudulent
  • The IRS, the bank or any other government agency will not:
    • Offer to get your money to you faster in exchange for your information
    • Ask you for any payment up-front to receive your money
    • Request Social Security Number or account number to deposit a check
    • Verify your personal information via phone, social media, email or text message
    • Ask you to provide personal information by clicking links in emails or texts

For additional information on the Economic Impact Payments, please visit the IRS website.    


Donation Scams

If you are asked to donate to a charitable organization that you haven’t heard of, or aren’t very familiar with, make sure to research the organization.  Never let anyone rush you into making a donation and do not donate through gift cards or cash.  Please be aware of potential fraud if individuals or organizations are asking you to wire money to another country for a charitable cause related to the pandemic.


Email Fraud (Phishing)

Phishing is a cybercrime in which you are contacted by email, telephone or text message by someone pretending to be a legitimate institution.  The person tries to lure you into providing personally identifiable information, such as banking and credit card details, and passwords.

The phishing attempts we have seen are becoming more and more sophisticated. If any of the following exist in an email, it is most likely a phishing attempt:

  • Extreme urgency for action
  • Request of personal information (passwords, account numbers, etc.)
  • Spelling and/or grammatical errors
  • Suspicious links
  • Attachments from someone you don’t know

Please review the bullet points below for additional information to identify a phishing email, text message or phone call:

Phishing guidance from the National Cyber Security Centre:

  • Authority – Is the sender claiming to be from someone official (e.g., your bank or doctor, a lawyer, a government agency)? Criminals often pretend to be important people or organizations to trick you into doing what they want.
     
  • Urgency – Are you told you have a limited time to respond (e.g., in 24 hours or immediately)? Criminals often threaten you with fines or other negative consequences.
     
  • Emotion – Does the message make you panic, fearful, hopeful, or curious? Criminals often use threatening language, make false claims of support, or attempt to tease you into wanting to find out more.
     
  • Scarcity – Is the message offering something in short supply (e.g., concert tickets, money, or a cure for medical conditions)? Fear of missing out on a good deal or opportunity can make you respond quickly.

Tips to avoiding coronavirus scams from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) include:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or experts saying they have information about the virus. For current information about the Coronavirus, visit the CDC and the WHO.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. No vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products are currently available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores


How to Protect Yourself

How do you avoid being a victim?

  • Be suspicious of unsolicited phone calls, visits, or email messages
  • If an unknown individual claims to be from a legitimate organization, try to verify his or her identity directly with the company
  • If you are unsure an email request is legitimate, try to verify it by contacting the company directly - do not use contact information provided in the email
  • Do not reveal personal or financial information through emails and do not respond to email solicitations for this information
  • Do not click on links in a potentially fraudulent email
  • Install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters to reduce some of this traffic
  • Take advantage of any anti-phishing features offered by your email provider and web browser

What do you do if you think you are a victim?

If you feel ID theft is a concern, or have reason to believe you may be a victim of ID theft, you may place a "fraud alert" on your credit file, by contacting the fraud department at one of the three major credit bureaus for which contact information appears below:

  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com/;
    P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374- 0241
     
  • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN or 1-888-397-3742; www.experian.com/;
    P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
     
  • TransUnion: 1-888-909-8872; www.transunion.com/;
    Fraud Victim Assistance Department, P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

You only need to notify one credit bureau. The one that processes your fraud alert will notify the other two. Those two then must place fraud alerts in your file.

Placing a “fraud alert” on your credit file can help prevent a thief from opening new accounts or making changes to your existing accounts. Be aware, however, that placing an alert on your credit file also may prevent you from opening an account unless the bank can contact you and positively confirm your identity and that you are applying for credit.

In addition, people who think their personal information has been misused should contact the local police. They also can contact and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by phone at 877-IDTHEFT or 1-877-438-4338 or TDD 1-866-653-4261 or on the Internet at www.identitytheft.gov/.

As always, protect your Social Security number, bank account and credit card numbers, and other personal information, especially in response to unsolicited requests from strangers. Please reach out to our Contact Center at (800) 836-3711 for assistance.