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Scam: Seniors being told they’ll get paid for staying home during coronavirus pandemic

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TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – If you’re being offered thousands of dollars to stay home during the COVID-19 outbreak, don’t buy it. It’s a scam.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the scam is targeting seniors, who are being offered fake federal grant money to stay isolated at home to prevent spreading the coronavirus.

The scammers are reaching out through Facebook Messenger, email and text message and requesting upfront payment as insurance for the expedited delivery of grant money, Moody said.

“This scam appears to involve an international criminal organization utilizing a multifaceted communications plan to deceive seniors," the attorney general wrote in a consumer alert. “These criminals are hacking Facebook accounts to send messages to targets from a friend’s profile — creating the illusion that the grant program is being promoted by an acquaintance. Once contact is made, the criminals request personal information, bank account numbers and insurance payments purportedly to help ensure the safe delivery of thousands of dollars in federal grant money, and of course, the money is never sent.”

She said the state is working with law enforcement to investigate and stop this scam.

Anyone who provided information and payments after receiving such messages is asked to contact the attorney general’s office by calling 866-966-7226 or visiting MyFloridaLegal.com.

Moody also shared these tips to protect from being scammed:

  • Know that the federal government is not contacting seniors and offering them grants to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19
  • Remember, requests for upfront payments of any kind, including through gift cards, money orders, wire transfers, bitcoin or insurance fees in exchange for a grant, loan or government benefit are red flags of a scam
  • Be wary of any COVID-19 related offers received via Facebook, even if the offer appears to come from a familiar account. Hackers can hijack social media accounts and send the account holders’ friends or followers deceiving messages
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited messages. These links could contain malware or connect the target to a website set up to obtain personal or financial information for nefarious purposes
  • Watch out for websites or messages containing typos, grammatical mistakes or awkward word choices. Many sham websites are created by foreign scam artists struggling with the English language. Typos and grammatical mistakes in messages purporting to be from the government are red flags that a message is from an imposter.

About the Author:

David Selig is the Digital Executive Producer at WPLG, overseeing Local10.com.