COVID-19, ECONOMY CREATE MULTIPLE AVENUES FOR FRAUD
AUDITOR, ATTORNEY GENERAL, BANKING HOSTING TELE-TOWNHALL THURSDAY
HELENA, Mont. — The Montana Senior Financial Exploitation Task Force is warning Montanans to watch out for increased risk of scams and fraud with the COVID-19 pandemic, stock market turbulence, job losses, and more all happening simultaneously.
Montanans should be especially vigilant over the coming weeks and months, and report suspicious activity and suspected scams or fraud immediately. Montanans should contact the Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) at 1-800-481-6896 or dojmt.gov/consumer with questions or concerns about potentially fraudulent activity.
In addition to OCP, Montanans can call any member agency of the Task Force or the state’s COVID-19 hotline and will be referred to the agency with jurisdiction over the issue being reported. The Senior Financial Exploitation Task Force was created in 2019 to coordinate resources across multiple organizations, state, and federal jurisdictions to protect seniors and other vulnerable Montanans from fraud and exploitation. Members of the Task Force include the State Auditor, Attorney General, U.S. Attorney, Adult Protective Services, Banking Division, Department of Health and Human Services, and more.
“We created the Task Force to bring all our resources together and ensure financial exploitation and fraud are not tolerated in Montana,” said State Auditor Matt Rosendale.“Right now, scammers are looking for ways to use the COVID-19 pandemic to take advantage of the public. Be vigilant, don’t make rushed decisions, and remember: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re not sure about an investment offer, or something seems suspicious, report it to us immediately, and don’t give out your personal or financial information.”
Fraudulent schemes can take many forms during the COVID-19 pandemic, including:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations
- Fake investment opportunities, Ponzi schemes, and securities fraud
- Unsolicited, fraudulent offers of mortgage relief, advance fee scams, and fake banking services
- Any calls stating that the caller needs banking information in order to deposit stimulus checks
- Any unsolicited contact asking for personal or financial information online or over the phone
- Any communication where you don’t recognize the sender, even if it supposedly from a government agency, asking you to click on a link
All Task Force members are conducting various forms of outreach and public awareness efforts, including public service announcements, social media campaigns, and more. State Auditor Matt Rosendale, Attorney General Tim Fox, and the Banking Division will also be holding a tele-townhall this Thursday, April 9th, at 6:20PM to help get the word out to Montanans. Anyone can listen to the tele-townhall here: https://video.teleforumonline.com/video/streaming.php?client=19375
All Task Force members encourage Montanans to be on the lookout and report suspicious activity immediately:
Attorney General Tim Fox: “Montanans are doing great things to help each other through these difficult times, but we are also seeing scams, fraud, and people trying to profit from fear. My office is investigating complaints regarding price gouging and other consumer issues that have arisen as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak. It is vitally important that Montanans exercise good judgment and stay informed, and my Office of Consumer Protection is here to help. Visit https://dojmt.gov/consumer/ or call 1-800-481-6896 for more information or to file a complaint.”
Chris Romano, Non-Depository Bureau Chief, Montana Division of Banking and Financial Institutions: “Consumers should be suspicious of any unsolicited offers from any persons or companies offering mortgage relief. There are numerous reports of imposter and advance fee scams promising offers that are too good to be true. Consumers should deal directly with their mortgage servicer by utilizing the contact information that they obtain on their monthly mortgage statements. If you do not have enough money to cover your mortgage payment, contact your lender immediately. Please don’t wait until you’re behind on payments. Lenders may work with you to waive late fees, set up a repayment plan, or offer loan forbearance. Do not provide bank account information to a caller who says they need it to deposit your stimulus check. The IRS does not call and ask for this information. ”
Michael Hagenlock, Bureau Chief, Adult Protective Services: “Montana Adult Protective Services values the ongoing work of all first responders, caretakers and others who are caring for Montana citizens under challenging circumstances to ensure that vulnerable adults across Montana can be safe. APS staff are available, and continuing to work to investigate reports of abuse, neglect or exploitation and providing contacts for resources in the community. Montana Adult Protective Services continues to work with our partners across the state to include Attorney General’s Office, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, Office of Consumer Protection, State Auditor’s Office, and the U.S. Attorney’s office to combat the scams, fraud and exploitation of persons age 60 and older or adults with disabilities.”