MEDFORD, Mass. – Middlesex Sheriff Peter J. Koutoujian is reminding residents to be alert for scams and fraud targeting people across the country, including newly emerging scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past several weeks, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) Office of Inspector General have all issued warnings regarding COVID-related scams.
According to the FBI, they have seen an uptick in fraudulent unemployment claims in which scammers are using stolen identities to impersonate victims. If you think you have been the victim of identity theft related to such a claim, the FBI is encouraging you to contact “law enforcement, state unemployment insurance agencies, the IRS, credit bureaus, and your employer’s human resources department.”
The IRS is also warning taxpayers to be alert for “tax fraud and other related financial scams related to COVID-19.” The IRS’ Criminal Investigation division has reported scams relative to Economic Impact Payments (EIP), as well as the selling of fake at-home test kits, vaccines and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19, according to a release issued last month.
In an effort to help members of the public protect themselves, HHS’s OIG has created a video focusing on five things people should know to protect themselves against COVID-19 health care fraud. Among other steps, HHS is encouraging people to be cautious about unsolicited requests for personal information like Social Security numbers.
Additionally, Sheriff Koutoujian is urging residents to be alert for non-COVID related scams including arrest scams in which callers pose as members of law enforcement. In these scams, callers often threaten arrest for things such as failure to perform jury duty, failure to pay taxes or Social Security-related fraud, and attempt to either extract money or personal information which they can later use to commit other crimes.
“It’s important for all residents to be aware of this type of fraud,” said Sheriff Koutoujian. “The criminals who carry out these scams target residents of all ages and economic backgrounds.”