Denver’s top prosecutor says scammers are finding opportunities for profit in the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a conversation with Insight’s John Ferrugia, Denver District Attorney Beth McCann shares details on some of the most common scams and advice on how to avoid them.
Beware of Coronavirus Scams
Description: Denver District Attorney Beth McCann warns about coronavirus scams.
McCann said her office is hearing complaints about fraudulent offers to help people get their federal economic impact checks faster.
“That is not something that you should respond to, because all stimulus checks are being handled through the IRS, and they will not call you and ask you for bank information. You do all of that online with the IRS,” McCann said. “But I’m afraid that some people who are very anxious to get those checks will fall for the idea that, ‘Oh great, this person can help me get it!’”
McCann also offered a warning about seemingly kind offers to shop or run errands for someone who is isolating at home.
“In our elder abuse unit, we did have a couple that were approached by someone who asked them to give credit card information so this person could go and purchase their groceries. And you know, you think that sounds like a good idea. But we just advise people: do not trust a stranger, do not give anyone your credit card information or bank account information, or let them into your home. Even if they seem nice, and they seem like they really want to help. Just rely on neighbors, friends, people that you know,” McCann said. “Otherwise, it’s just too tempting for someone to get that credit card information and then use it for whatever they want to use it for.”
While many scams classically seem to target senior citizens, the district attorney said the fraud emerging around coronavirus is also targeting a younger demographic of social media users.
“We think that in some ways we think that’s even more of a base for scammers. Particularly right now, with the stimulus check and so many people losing their jobs, I think younger people who need the money perhaps a little more than older people, are more susceptible. And they are used to communicating through social media, and that is a way that they can easily be contacted and be scammed,” McCann said.
The district attorney also urged caution around scams claiming to sell at-home COVID-19 tests and suspicious solicitations from those claiming to represent charities. She said scammers are contacting people by phone, email and on social media. McCann said it’s a time for everyone to be more cautious about protecting their personal information.
“There’s a lot of anxiety right now, so take a deep breath and think, ‘Does this sound legit? What can I do to verify it?’ And just be very careful about your money, your credit card and your personal information,” McCann said. “Don’t give out any personal information, by phone, by email, in person, unless it’s someone you know and trust.”
Every Friday, the DA’s office shines the light on a current scam (#FraudFriday). Sign up for the office’s fraud newsletter on their website, DenverDA.org. You can also follow updates from the DA’s office on Facebook and Twitter.
To report suspected fraud in Denver, call the Denver DA’s Consumer Fraud Hotline at 720-913-9179.
You can also report fraud to the Colorado attorney general’s office and sign up for statewide fraud alerts at StopFraudColorado.gov.
This story is part of a collaboration with FRONTLINE, the PBS series, through its Local Journalism Initiative, which is funded by the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation and the Corporation for Public Broadcasting.