Avoiding scams during COVID-19

The MN Department of Commerce is sharing best practices to avoid robocall-type scams during this stay-at-home period of the pandemic. Given the heightened anxieties surrounding the virus right now, scammers are taking advantage by sending out more illegal robocalls. These calls are designed to try and gain personal information from you – social security numbers, bank account information, et cetera. They may also ask you to purchase gift cards or make payments for things like at-home COVID-19 tests or investment protections. The Department of Commerce release the following best practices for avoiding scams:

  • DO NOT ANSWER. If you are not familiar with the phone number, have the call go directly to voicemail.
  • HANG UP. Do not press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator who will eventually ask you for money or say they will remove you from their call list, but answering will actually lead to MORE robocalls.
  • VERIFY. Do not call any telephone number or go directly to a website that you are directed to on the call. You should always look up and verify any number or website using an internet search engine first, rather than relying on any information that you are given.
  • REPORT robocalls at ftc.gov/complaint. The more complaints that are filed, the more the FTC can help to stop them and share that information with the public and law enforcement. If you have any other questions, you can call the Minnesota Department of Commerce’s Senior Financial Ombudsman, Marty Fleischhacker at 952-237-7571.
  • FIND A CALL-BLOCKING APP OR DEVICE. You also can ask your phone provider if it has call-blocking tools. To learn more, go to ftc.gov/calls.
  • SUBSCRIBE to the FTC’s consumer alerts here.

Opportunists may try to take advantage of the vulnerable or anxious during the crisis, but knowledge and preparation will prevent them from being successful. By following these practices, you can avoid common robocall scams and continue to protect your identity and your information during this pandemic.