Avoiding scams in the age of COVID

S.F. Ehrlich Associates |

August 15, 2020

By: John Zeltmann

Times like these are rife with opportunities for potential fraudsters. While the unsuspecting public spends a lot of energy these days on things like trying to remember a face mask when walking out the door, checking in on at-risk family members, or keeping youngsters entertained while working from home, scam artists recognize that we may not be as focused as we should be on protecting our personal finances.


As of August 4, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that there have been 152,129 coronavirus-related fraud cases since the start of 2020, costing Americans nearly $98 million. "Online shopping scams were the most common, with 23,482 cases...Unsuspecting victims were swindled out of $13.8 million. Travel and vacation scams account for even bigger losses, totaling $33.71 million since the start of the year, with US citizens reporting 17,659 travel and vacation complaints, according to the FTC."1


So what can you do to protect yourself?

First and foremost, if you ever encounter anything that resembles suspicious activity on one of your Schwab accounts, let us know immediately. If we’re not available, your next call should be to the Schwab Alliance Team (800-515-2157). Don’t wait; it's always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to protecting your personal data.


A recent article by Megan Leonhardt at CNBC provides some additional helpful suggestions2:

  • Educate yourself on the latest scams - "The FTC has been keeping on top of the latest schemes and issuing consumer alerts about what they’re finding. You can sign up for the emails or simply visit the FTC’s coronavirus scam page."
  • Block robocalls - "Most mobile service providers, including the ‘Big Four’ — AT&T, Sprint, T-Mobile and Verizon — have free software or apps that block robocalls. Some, like Verizon, have software that automatically blocks some of the worst robocalls throughout their network, while others have separate options that consumers can install. It’s worth reaching out to your provider to see what they offer."
  • Don't respond - "Don’t respond to unknown text messages or pick up calls from unfamiliar phone numbers. Instead, let them roll into voicemail for further scrutiny. Illegal robocalls are being used to pitch consumers everything from low-priced health insurance to Covid-19 “cures” to work-from-home schemes, the FTC says. If it’s an important robocall, say from a pharmacy or doctor’s office, they’ll usually leave a message or contact you another way, such as through email or an app."
  • Reach out through legitimate contacts - "If you do receive an email or text message that you feel you do need to respond to, don’t click on the link provided. Instead, go directly to the government or company website by typing its name in your browser. Contact it through an official phone number or email address. Links in emails or text messages are a particularly common way for fraudsters to gain access or lure you into a scam. Hackers send what’s called a phishing email, in which they mimic the look or feel of communications sent by companies or the government and include a link to a false portal asking for your information."


When it comes to accessing your personal data, fraudsters will leave no stone unturned. When it comes to protecting yourself, we encourage you to do the same.



1 Shein, Esther. “COVID-19-Related Scams Cost Americans More than $98 Million since the Start of 2020.” TechRepublic, 5 Aug. 2020, www.techrepublic.com/article/covid-19-related-scams-cost-americans-more-than-98-million-since-the-start-of-2020/.
2 Leonhardt, Megan. “Coronavirus Scams Have Cost Americans $39 Million so Far-Here's How to Protect Yourself.” CNBC, 25 May 2020, www.cnbc.com/2020/05/25/americans-have-lost-39-million-dollars-to-coronavirus-scams-how-to-avoid-them.html.
Please remember that past performance may not be indicative of future results.  Different types of investments involve varying degrees of risk, and there can be no assurance that the future performance of any specific investment, investment strategy, or product (including the investments and/or investment strategies recommended or undertaken by S.F. Ehrlich Associates, Inc. (“SFEA”), or any non-investment related content, made reference to directly or indirectly in this newsletter will be profitable, equal any corresponding indicated historical performance level(s), be suitable for your portfolio or individual situation, or prove successful.  Due to various factors, including changing market conditions and/or applicable laws, the content may no longer be reflective of current opinions or positions. Moreover, you should not assume that any discussion or information contained in this newsletter serves as the receipt of, or as a substitute for, personalized investment advice from SFEA.  To the extent that a reader has any questions regarding the applicability of any specific issue discussed above to his/her individual situation, he/she is encouraged to consult with the professional advisor of his/her choosing.  SFEA is neither a law firm nor a certified public accounting firm and no portion of the newsletter content should be construed as legal or accounting advice.  A copy of SFEA’s current written disclosure Brochure discussing our advisory services and fees is available upon request. If you are a SFEA client, please remember to contact SFEA, in writing, if there are any changes in your personal/financial situation or investment objectives for the purpose of reviewing, evaluating, or revising our previous recommendations and/or services.