Recently, we warned about the practice of deceptive practice concerning recorded deed notices, wherein companies send an official-looking letter to new Maryland homeowners requesting $95 in exchange for a copy of the homeowner’s deed. We advised that a copy of your deed is available online for free and that your county land records will make a copy of the deed for a few dollars. We also cautioned about a similar practice in which newly-organized businesses are instructed to send an additional payment in order to obtain a Certificate of Status.
We are now warning our clients and friends of scams targeting heirs and beneficiaries of open estates who may be financially impacted by the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic. A client of Azrael Franz contacted attorney Paul Schwab inquiring about a company based out of New York who had contacted the client offering an “inheritance advance,” in “as little as 24 hours.” This company proposes to offer customers a “risk free” advance without any credit history check. While this may sound appealing, remember to never give your personal or financial information without first consulting with your attorney.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, here are the signs of an advance loan scam:
- A lender who isn’t interested in your credit history
- Fees that are not disclosed clearly or prominently. Scam lenders may say you’ve been approved for a loan, then call or email demanding a fee before you can get the money. Any upfront fee that the lender wants to collect before granting the loan is a cue to walk away, especially if you’re told it’s for “insurance,” “processing” or just “paperwork.”
- A loan offered by phone. It is illegal for companies doing business in the U.S. by phone to promise you a loan and ask you to pay for it before they deliver.
- Unfortunately, with a crisis such as coronavirus, we experience a rise in scams that prey on struggling individuals.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General (HHS) is also alerting the public about fraud schemes centered on coronavirus. Scammers are offering coronavirus tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, the services are unapproved and illegitimate. The personal information collected can be used to fraudulently bill Federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft.
HHS is warning that scammers are targeting beneficiaries in a number of ways including telemarketing, social media, and door-to-door visits. Protect yourself by being aware and informed. Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries should:
- Be cautious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare or Medicaid numbers.
- Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies.
- Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites.
- Only allow a physician or other trusted healthcare provider to assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing.
If you suspect COVID-19 fraud, the Justice Department requests that you contact National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (866) 720-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.