Financial Advisors in Sonoma County Warn: 3 Scams to Avoid in Today’s Climate
As if there isn’t enough to worry about right now, financial advisors in Sonoma County are warning their clients about new scams that attempt to rip off a frightened public during this pandemic.
Clever scammers keep finding new ways to profit off the COVID-19 virus, but there are 3 particular scams that some of our clients at Montgomery Taylor Wealth Management are especially vulnerable for.
The IRS has released a series of warnings about COVID-19 tax scams involving the economic payment checks it is sending out to millions of Americans.
Congress responded to the pandemic by appropriating huge sums in stimulus money for businesses and individuals. To nobody’s surprise, crooks are scamming potential recipients in order to steal the payments or the payee’s information. Recipients who lack direct deposit are most at risk, starting with something as simple as check theft. But information theft is perhaps the biggest threat.
Please note: The IRS will not contact you via text, phone, email or social media to gather your personal information. The only way the IRS will contact you is through the U.S. mail. If you get a call, email or text requesting information in order to “process your payment,” don’t give it out. The only place to provide information for these checks is the IRS Economic Impact Payments page. You don’t have to pay anything to receive your stimulus check. Any attempt to collect money is fraudulent and you should report it.
Furthermore, Montgomery Taylor Wealth Management will also never request any personal information without a secure way to share it. If you see a suspicious email, receive a phone call requesting any personal information or get a text “from us,” please call the office directly to verify. Use the contact information you have for us or go directly to our website instead of responding to a number that appears on your phone.
Another tax scam financial advisors in Sonoma County are seeing are fraudulent requests from the IRS asking for payment. The IRS won’t contact you to ask for a refund because it “overpaid” the stimulus amount. You may receive a fraudulent check with an oversize payment, followed by a call from the scammer demanding a partial refund. The IRS is very unlikely to overpay you and even more unlikely to demand repayment. If you get that kind of request, confirm before providing any type of information – even something simple like a birth date.
If you get any kind of communication about a “stimulus check” or “Coronavirus payment,” remember that the government will only use the term “Economic Impact Payment.” Any other term is a red flag. Even if the proper term is used, don’t click on any links that promise to take you to an official website that collects information to “process” your check.
Also, beware of any Facebook posts that discuss “special grants” for seniors. CBS News reported one incident that included a link to a phony page for the U.S. Emergency Grants Federation, which collected Social Security numbers.
When in doubt, confirm.
The professionals at Montgomery Taylor Wealth Management are here for you. Contact us to discuss your financial concerns.
Insurance fraud costs consumers billions of dollars each year, and the situation worsens when anxieties rise during a crisis. The typical means for insurance scammers to defraud consumers include phishing, spam mail, social media posts and robocalls.
In today’s environment, fraudsters are offering “special” COVID-19 policies that offer big payoffs if you pass away from the Coronavirus. Others offer additional health insurance for Coronavirus-related medical costs. Typically, these scams ask for personal information, including credit card numbers and Social Security numbers. Never give out this information without first checking out the insurance company and validating that the insurance is real.
Car insurance fraud is also on the rise. Crooks are intentionally sideswiping drivers and then using the pandemic as an excuse not to involve the police. They collect your real information but give you phony data. They can then use your information to steal your identity.
Also beware of travel insurance scams where bogus agents offer phantom COVID-19 trip cancellation insurance. In general, do not respond to cold calls or emails offering COVID-19 insurance products.
Free Financial Help and Magical Fixes for the Market
We also want our clients to be wary of promises from new “financial advisors” who offer to help you quickly recover the money you may have lost in the current bear market. Scammers are experts at overcoming your objections and grabbing your information and money.
Some financial advisors may be bad for your wealth, even if they aren’t lawbreakers. For instance, an advisor may talk you into buying expensive financial products you don’t need. The advisors collect fat commissions and you’re stuck holding the bag. Some may ask you to give them Power Of Attorney and then start abusing your assets for their own gain.
Never sign up with a financial advisor without first performing due diligence. Working with a fiduciary financial advisor is the only way you can ensure a financial advisor has a legal responsibility to put your best interests first.
Tips for Spotting Fraud
Here are some dos and don’ts:
Never respond to links in emails, even if the email looks legit. Crooks are experts at spoofing emails and websites. We have heard of phony links in emails that deposit malware on your computer when you click them. Malware can harvest your personal information and create other problems that can cause you endless grief.
Hang up when you receive “technical support” phone calls from “Microsoft,” “IBM” or other big-name companies that you did not call first. These are often times fraudsters looking to gather information or load malware on your computer.
You can also find many fraudulent COVID-19 “charities” on social media. Many of these posts claim to help nurses, firefighters and other first responders. If you’d like to contribute to a worthy charity, do your homework first. When setting up a charitable giving strategy for your financial plan, your financial advisor will also be able to help.
Also, do not buy miracle cures from social media sites. These scams are set up to prey on the desperate and deliver nothing in return.
The bottom line: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.