Many different types of scams have arisen over the past few weeks related to the coronavirus pandemic.
As those scams increase and come closer to home, McMinn County Sheriff Joe Guy has put out a warning to citizens.
“We have not been overwhelmed” in the county, according to Guy, however scams have been popping up nationwide.
“We have seen a few scams locally affiliated with the COVID-19 situation and with stimulus checks,” said Guy. “We want to warn people first and foremost to be very careful responding to emails, to social media posts, texts or phone calls without verifying that they are legitimate.”
Verification can be done by contacting the agency a person claims to work for or by calling your local police department or sheriff’s department for them to check into the claim.
“There is a scam going on about trying to sell people COVID-19 home testing kits and those do not exist,” said Guy. “There is also a scam nationwide ‘verifying’ personal information for healthcare insurance.”
Another scam that has circulated locally are fake stimulus checks that give the scammer access to your bank account upon cashing it in or the fake check will ask for a fee to be paid via credit card.
If anyone receives a check that they suspect may be fake, they can bring the check to their local police station, sheriff’s department or call for a deputy to arrive to clarify if the check is legitimate or not.
“We have also had people going around offering to sanitize people’s homes,” said Guy. “They kind of show up at your door with a spray bottle or some kind of a cleaning agent. Sometimes they might even claim to be selling a vacuum cleaner.”
He stated that some legitimate sellers do come to the county every now and then, however people should still be wary due to the amount of “less than reputable” people attempting to get inside residences.
“A lot of times they are trying to gain access to your home for the purpose of theft,” said Guy. “We have had a couple of suspicious incidents where people have been approached by people like that ... In one instance one of our deputies made contact with that person and escorted him out of the county.”
The sheriff’s department will respond to claims if people suspect something may be a scam.
“A lot of times the first thing people do is post that on social media, but what they need to do is call 911 first and let us respond because the minutes it takes to put something on social media that person is long gone,” said Guy. “By the time our deputies get there, we can’t make contact with the scammer and prevent them from trying to scam somebody else.”
The sheriff’s department was alerted earlier this week of another scam making the rounds.
“Another warning came from the Tennessee Sheriff’s Association about people claiming to be the IRS related to the stimulus check and that is a scam,” said Guy. “The IRS will not call you by phone and ask you to pay any fees or taxes. These are some scams that have been going on for a long time and they just tailored them to the situation that is going on publicly and try to make it more believable.”
Citizens are urged to practice more vigilance during the current pandemic.
“We have to use precautions when it comes to this virus but we also have to continue to be diligent and use precautions when it comes to people offering us money or trying to get our personal information,” said Guy. “The best defense against scamming is to hang up or don’t respond. A lot of these things are overseas or through computer generated phone numbers and there is no way to track them down once the scam is done.”