JACKSON, Miss. – Fraud schemes become more common, according to State Auditor Shad White, during emergencies. To help combat that fraud, the Office of the State Auditor today released information on the best authorities to contact if Mississippians see a fraud scheme, along with information on how to protect themselves from the fraud.
“As a Certified Fraud Examiner, I’m alarmed by the number of schemes we’re seeing pop up around Mississippi and on social media,” said White. “Everyone needs to stay vigilant and use common sense in times like these. Please report each of these schemes as you see them so the proper authority is alerted and can begin work.”
The following are examples of schemes authorities are seeing right now:
- Fraudsters may promise a stimulus check if you provide your bank account information. You should contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for information about stimulus funds. Stimulus schemes can be reported to the Department of Justice at email@example.com or by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866)-720-5721.
- Fraud involving counterfeit or fake testing kits, COVID-19 cures, “immunity” pills, and fake protective equipment can also be reported to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866)-720-5721.
- Be skeptical of people pressuring you to make a quick purchase of stock in a company based on how the company is fighting coronavirus. This is often referred to as a “pump-and-dump” scheme. Fraud like this should be reported to the United States Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) at www.sec.gov/tcr. The SEC has also published resources for investing during the pandemic on its website.
- “Phishing” is a fraud scheme where hackers try to convince you to open an email and click on a link. Doing so may give the hackers access to your personal information. Look for emails with misspelled sender addresses or those asking for personal information. Identity theft and phishing schemes can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) on their COVID-19 webpage.
- Price gouging and hoarding falls under the authority of the Attorney General in Mississippi and should be reported to their office by emailing email@example.com or by calling (601)-359-3680.
- In charity fraud, scammers ask for donations to phony groups they say are raising money for COVID-19 relief. Be skeptical of charities demanding payment in cash only. Independently verify any charity or nonprofit asking for donations by Googling the charity. Report charity fraud to firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud at (866)-720-5721.
- Be suspicious of unexpected phone calls from those you do not recognize. Illegal telemarketers can be reported to the Mississippi Public Service Commission by calling (601)-961-5434. Phone call scams can also be reported to the FTC on their website.
- Vendor fraud – where a company uses public corruption or intentionally creates fake bills and invoices to steal public money – in Mississippi cities, counties, and state agencies can be reported to the Mississippi Office of the State Auditor online at www.osa.ms.gov or by calling 1-(800)-321-1275. Vendor fraud involving federal funds can also be reported to the U.S. Government Accountability Office at email@example.com or 1-(800)-424-5454.
- Theft of government property while employees are working from home can be reported to the Office of the State Auditor or your local police.
“What’s most alarming about many of these schemes is that our elderly often seem to be the targets of the fraudsters,” said White. “Please tell your older loved ones to be on the lookout and to be suspicious of any pandemic-related sales pitches directed to the elderly.”
The Office of the State Auditor and Auditor White will continue to publish information about fraud schemes on the Auditor’s website and via social media in coming weeks.