Protect yourself from scams during the COVID-19 pandemic

Protect yourself from scams during the COVID-19 pandemic

June 3, 2020

photo of Tom Tull By Tom Tull, Chief Investments Officer at the Employees Retirement System of Texas (ERS)

It never fails—any time something happens that significantly changes our lives, fraudsters come out to play. The COVID-19 pandemic is no exception.

According to the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), a non-profit organization charged with protecting the U.S. investment market, there are two kinds of scams you need to know about.

  • The first involves fraudulent investment account openings and money transfers. Scammers may use stolen or fake identities—using real Social Security numbers then adding false names, addresses and birth dates—to open accounts. The goal: to steal stimulus funds, unemployment payments or other payments and send those funds to the new account.
  • FINRA’s advice to protect yourself: Review your investment and bank accounts regularly for activity and pay attention to any change notifications you get from your firm. If something doesn’t look right, contact your investment firm and report the issue.
  • In the second kind of fraud, scammers may try to get your personal information, including account information and account credentials like usernames and password, by calling you or sending you an email or text. They may pretend to be an employee at your investment company.
  • FINRA’s advice: Confirm that the person contacting you really is from your investment company. Never share account credentials or give remote access to your computer to someone you haven’t verified. If you are contacted from email addresses or getting texts from phone numbers that don’t match the information on your account statements, don’t share any information until you are certain they are who they say they are.

As always, it’s good to keep this old adage in mind: if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be sure to run—not walk—from the proposed “opportunity” and alert the authorities.

For more information, read Fraud and Your Investment Accounts during [the] COVID-19 Pandemic.