Anyone who has lived through a hurricane, tornado or other disaster knows that – in times of major crisis – you see the best of humanity and the worst of humanity.
The Corona crisis is no different.
But we’re unusually vulnerable because of the financial instability we’re each living:
- The stock market has tumbled into bear-market territory from all-time highs.
- We ask the ‘do-we-sell-or-do-we-hold’ question about our IRAs again and again.
- We worry if we’ll see any more dividend checks.
- Our physical income-earning activities are on hold.
- We question what our lives will look like when the crisis is over.
In short, we’re very distracted.
And, as if that weren’t enough, we’re confronted by the ‘worst of humanity’ working overtime to separate us from the money we do have.
They’re called scammers. Coronavirus scammers!
And they’re playing off distraction, misinformation and fear.
The Three Big Danger Zones
So many of the rules we took for granted have vanished. That makes this a very dangerous time to ‘assume’ anything.
1. What you do with your investments
Our familiar investment goalposts are gone, and the financial uncertainly is unprecedented. Yet by nature, we’re attracted to opportunities to recapture some of our losses. (And the scammers know it.)
The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) has warned that scammers are promoting companies that claim breakthroughs in preventing or curing COVID-19. Its alert is called “Look Out for Coronavirus-Related Investment Scams – Investor Alert.”
Microcap stocks are particularly enticing: the unit cost is low, and the upside is high, right? How bad could they be? Well, they could well be part of pump-and-dump schemes that use your emotions to separate you from your money.
Something else: all the media we consume while we’re ‘sheltered in place’ can create FOMO: the Fear Of Missing Out. We’re stuck at home. Others know more than we do. There are opportunities we’re going to miss.
Promise yourself that you’ll create a process to follow if you’re tempted to make any kind of investment. Wait 24 hours before acting. Measure how much pressure the person or website is putting on you to act immediately. Gather all the information you can find. Run it by someone whose opinion you trust. And listen to the voice in your head if it says that it’s too good to be true.
2. What you do online
We’re spending infinitely more time online, either because we’re working from home or we’re trying to entertain ourselves. Besides, it’s a source of information on the virus.
Here is a sample scam:
The World Health Organization (WHO) is an expert source we all hear about. It has sent out a warning entitled “Beware of criminals pretending to be WHO.” Coronavirus scammers are pretending to be part of WHO and phishing for your personal information.
So, if something shows up in your email:
- Look at the sender’s email address and be sure it comes from the organization’s official web address. For WHO, it should read @who.int. Anything from @who.org or @who.com is likely a scam.
- Don’t click on any links in the email, as it could expose you to a downloaded virus, a phony webpage or your computer hijacked for ransom.
Instead, Google an organization’s (or charity’s) full name and go directly to its official website. If the opportunity or offer is not listed there, it was most likely a third-party scam.
3. What you buy … anywhere
Everyone is looking for surgical masks. Disinfecting wipes. And testing options. And the internet is rife with offers for all those in-demand products. You say, “Wow, look what I found! How lucky, let me buy these now, quickly.”
If ever there was a time for ‘caveat emptor’ (let the buyer beware), it‘s now. Remember that everyone is looking for the same items. Not all offers are scams but, before you order anything from an unknown vendor, take a moment to read through the FTC’s online ‘best practices’
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has created guidelines for you called “Coronavirus Scams: What the FTC is doing.”
How to keep your money safe
If anyone is using pressure tactics on you, consider that a major red flag. The only ‘windfall’ you’ll miss out on is that of losing your money.
And if you’re concerned about your finances, don’t look to strangers. Seek the counsel of someone you trust. If you have a financial advisor who has served you well up to now, a calm conversation to set up a strategy to get through this crisis will be invaluable.
If you don’t have someone, this is not the time to Google ‘trusted financial advisor.’ Or, better yet, contact us.
You’ve worked hard for your money. Keep it safe.