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Scammers Using Pandemic Confusion to Hustle People Out of Money

A photo of a woman at a computer with a credit card.

Scammers are using the pandemic to trick people into giving out their personal information. Sara Kemerer, spokesperson for the Better Business Bureau of Cincinnati, says people have already been conned out of thousands of dollars.

"Scammers love to take advantage of the confusion and the stress that surrounds these major events. And it seems like every day for the past year and a half, if not longer, we have seen so many new events," she said. "The news cycle is constantly changing. So, there's something new for a scammer to take advantage of almost every week."

The scammers are offering loans, peddling credit repair services or allegedly promoting government programs. That could include offering to connect people with rental assistance services.

The two primary places in Cincinnati offering rental assistance are the Community Action Agency and Hamilton County Job and Family Services.

"I think the biggest thing that consumers need to be aware of is just be wary of out-of-the-blue phone calls, emails, text messages or even messages on social media, claiming to represent the government, just a big red flag is to remember that the government will not contact you through any of these methods, unless you have granted permission," she said.

Kemerer said other precautions include:

  • Reach out directly to a company or agency if something seems suspicious. Scammers may use the name of fake agencies or provide false information about real agencies that can be debunked with fact-checking.

  • Double-check any government program before you sign up. If an organization is offering you a grant or relief funds, get to know them before you agree to anything. Take a close look at their website and read reviews. If you think you might be dealing with an impostor, find the official contact information and call the company to make sure the offer is legitimate.

  • Free government programs or programs do not require advanced processing fees. For more information about government programs, visit legitimate websites with .gov addresses.

  • Avoid unusual payment methods like gift cards, Venmo, Cash App or PayPal.

To report a suspected scam, visit  ScamTracker.org or visit Adult Protective Services at ElderJustice.gov

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