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As the coronavirus pandemic continues to affect the United States, phone scammers have seized the opportunity to prey on consumers, including electric co-op members in Texas.
The Federal Communications Commission has received reports of scam and hoax text message campaigns and scam robocalls offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance and exploiting virus-related fears.
Scammers sometimes call to say that an electric bill is past due and try to collect personal information, such as Social Security numbers, or immediate payment through wire transfers, prepaid debit cards, gift cards or other untraceable currency. Members should be especially wary if anyone comes to your door to collect payment.
When your electric cooperative calls you, we will have your name and address; our member service representatives will not ask for that information over the phone. Never give out personal information to a stranger over the phone or at the door, and don’t let strangers inside your home.
If you are suspicious or feel threatened by a caller or visitor, call law enforcement immediately. If you get a call from a scammer pretending to be from your electric cooperative, hang up and call your cooperative directly.
Opportunists are also offering air conditioning duct cleaning as a way to “protect” your home and family from the virus.
The FCC warns of an increase in messaging scams, in which an email or text may falsely advertise a cure or an offer to be tested for coronavirus. Do not click on these links.
Some text scams impersonate government agencies. The FCC has learned of a text scam claiming to be from the “FCC Financial Care Center,” offering $30,000 in COVID-19 relief. There is no such FCC program.
The Better Business Bureau is also warning of a text message scam impersonating the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services that informs recipients that they must take a “mandatory online COVID-19 test” or that diabetic patients can receive a free testing kit and blood glucose monitor using an included link. Again, don’t click the link.
Text message hoaxes may claim that the government will order a mandatory national two-week quarantine or instruct you to go out and stock up on supplies. These fake messages may even appear to be from a “next-door neighbor.”
Fraudsters are also preying on financial fears. The FCC is aware of scams based on COVID-19 work-from-home opportunities, student loan repayment plans and debt consolidation offers. Small businesses are also getting scam calls about virus-related funding or loans.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a coronavirus scam, contact law enforcement immediately.