Above: Scammers don’t care how much we’re suffering. Photo by cottonbro from Pexels.

It amazes me that although we are in an international pandemic crisis, we still have to contend with scammers focused on ripping off naïve and trusting people, many of them seniors, who, like all of us, never have experienced such an event before.

Because the virus itself is dynamic and with the rush to find and develop vaccines (and soon, I hope, a cure), the scams too are moving in new directions.

If you are on Medicare, be especially mindful of unsolicited requests for information. Along with your Social Security number and date of birth, fraudsters often are looking to acquire your Medicare number.

Be politely skeptical

Here is where you need to be “politely skeptical” of people looking to acquire information from you:

  • Never give your Medicare number to anyone other than a doctor, a healthcare provider or a trusted representative. Treat it like a credit card. Those coming door-to-door offering free coronavirus testing, supplies or treatments probably are not legit. Don’t provide information to them and — just for fun — call your local police department, so we can check them out.
  • Don’t click on internet links before you verify the source. Domain names can vary only slightly — a letter here or number there — and still look legit when they aren’t. Put your glasses on and read the fine print closely before you click. On that note, make sure your antivirus program on your computer is up to date. Keep in mind that during epidemics and disasters, the number of fake charities and crowdfunding sites will increase. Don’t assume a fancy website is a legit one. Check it out.
  • Remember that fraudsters are looking for the path of least resistance, including those who won’t ask questions or don’t verify information they’ve been provided. (The only dumb question is the one you don’t ask.)

A friend told me that she simply could not understand a human mind that prioritizes scheming to steal rather than to help in such a time. Talk about naïve. We could be vaporized by a nuclear disaster and there would be that one guy selling radioactive wonder drugs guaranteed to have you back on your feet in no time. The term “We’re all in this together” does not apply to all. It is unfortunate, but true.

Do not let your guard down. At some point, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration will bring us, even if only a trickle at a time, better and better news regarding vaccines. Do not jump on the unicorn just yet, because along with the legitimate reporting will come the fraudsters.

How do you verify that something is legit?

Online is the best avenue. Go the internet and do some investigative work, perhaps typing in the new wonder drug’s name and look at the results. If it’s a scam, there has been something written about it. Verify that piece with two or three more online searches. (Hint: if you see a couple of scam articles regarding the subject you are researching, close the book on it because it is probably bad news.)

The FTC Consumer Information site is good — consumer.ftc.gov/blog. The FCC (Federal Communication Commission) — fcc.gov/covid-scams — also provides current information on fraud related to COVID-19.

Not only individuals are targets for frauds, but small businesses as well. Scammers are hoping to grab some of the funds from the Paycheck Protection Program, designed to help small business owners survive this mess.

So, the word of the day is “ignore.” Ignore the emails, robocalls and websites. Do your own research on legitimate websites.

As bad as things seem at times, remember that somehow, we’ll figure it out and get back to normal, or in my case, uh…so-so.

May the forces of evil become confused on the way to your house!

Steve Rose is a retired police captain and a contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.