Chinese virus triggers outbreak of health hustles - Albuquerque Journal

Chinese virus triggers outbreak of health hustles

If there’s a tragedy, you can count on scammers to capitalize on it.

The latest fraud is based on the outbreak of coronavirus, which is spreading across the globe after an initial outbreak in China.

Consumers are getting online offers for vaccinations against the virus, despite the fact that there is no such vaccine, the Better Business Bureau says.

Also, “a bunch of websites popped out online” recently hawking coronavirus masks, Scam Detector says.

The images on these fake sites show regular surgical masks, along with details that claim to boast “powerful air filters efficiently blocking the virus,” Scam Detector says.

Some people have turned over their credit card numbers to purchase the bogus products and gotten nothing in return.

Find out facts about the virus at the World Health Organization website,

Social Security scams

Quick note on the latest in the long list of Social Security-related scams.

This one involves an email that accompanies the usual phone call seeking payment to fix some purported problem with a person’s Social Security number or benefits.

The scammers are turning to email to send faked documents so that their phone demands seem more credible, according to Gail S. Ennis, inspector general for the Social Security Administration. The documents are sent as an attachment to the email.

“The letters may use official letterhead and government ‘jargon’ to convince victims they are legitimate; they may also contain misspellings and grammar mistakes,” Ennis said in a statement.

She adds that the agency will never send “official letters or reports containing personally identifiable information via email.”

Tax scam season

With tax season in full swing, here are a few reminders and tips to ward off the myriad scams that seek to steal your refund or otherwise separate you from your money:

• File your tax return early. That way, a scammer will have less opportunity to file in your name and make off with your refund.

• Beware the “ghost preparer.” The IRS uses this term to refer to unethical tax return preparers. Red flags: The person you’ve hired fails to sign your return or bases his or her fee on a percentage of your refund. Know that preparers must have an identification number, which they must list when they sign your return.

• If you intend to get your refund through direct deposit, make sure the preparer has correctly listed your bank’s routing number and your bank account number.

• Remember that the IRS will not call you about a tax debt. Instead you will get at least one letter — often more than one — notifying you that there’s a problem.

• The IRS will not ask you to pay any kind of debt or penalty with a gift card. This is a giant red flag.

• The state Tax and Revenue Department says those who are unsure about the legitimacy of a phone call or email claiming to be from the agency can contact the call center at 1-866-285-2996.

Contact Ellen Marks at or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210​.


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