By Faye Gaston

Living in a world of computers, with the distractions of the worldwide COVID-19 pandemic, mass unemployment, and wide-spread violent protests, we are fertile ground for online scammers. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is urging computer operators to beware of online fraud.

Victims of online scams lost more than $13 million since the COVID-19 outbreak. On the computer for hours each day, I am saturated with e-mails I did not subscribe to and constantly deleting and trying to unsubscribe even though some block the requests.

In my mailbox and e-mails, there are scores of political surveys and petitions, all for good causes, but they always conclude with requests for donations! Various "charity" organizations ask for donations. I do not know which ones are legitimate.

My employer, Johnny Adams, blocked one scammer on my computer when it was stalled. I was informed that I would be cut off the computer unless I called a specific phone number. Johnny explained that this was a scam, and he fixed the problem.

These are five of the biggest online scams to steal our money.

(1) Stimulus payment scams

Someone pretending to be from IRS will contact you to update your stimulus check asking you to confirm personal information. But the IRS will never contact you by e-mail, phone, text, or social media to give you an update on stimulus checks.

(2) Fake charity scams

There are legitimate organizations raising money to help victims of COVID-19, civil rights, and social justice. However, research before giving your credit card information. Clues that it may be fake charity is a request to donate online with a "sense of urgency" or thanks for a donation you never made.

(3) Fraudulent sites

These may claim to sell "personal protective equipment" (PPE) of face masks, etc., when you search for them during this pandemic. You may give your personal payment information but never receive your shipment.

(4) Income tax identify theft

Scammers file a false tax return with your identity information (social security number, etc.) and lots of fake deductions in hopes of a big refund being sent to their location. The IRS identified $135 million fraudulent tax returns in the first two months of 2020.

(5) Fake Job scams

Tell-tale signs of fake job offers could be a promise of a job immediately, a guarantee you will make money, you can work at your own home, and then ask you to use your credit card to cover upfront costs. My text message offered $500 a month to advertise a specific brand of beer on my car.

I was warned that this was a scam to get my banking information for supposed deposits that would never come, but there would be withdrawals.

We are advised not to click on links or open attachments unless you know who sent them. Americans spend 30% more money online by signing up for food delivery, telehealth services, paying bills, filling our health forms, and mobile banking. These services fan the flames for hackers and identity thieves.

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