Media Relations Plays Key Role In Fighting COVID-19

Sharing client insights on timely topics – such as consumer fraud due to Coronavirus outbreak – is a public service.

WhitneyThe past weeks have been filled with many unknowns, and have lead into uncharted territory for Thread clients operating in various industries from healthcare to manufacturing to banking. A large part of my role at Thread is to help company leaders navigate and communicate with their customers and concerned members of the general public in times of uncertainty. I am constantly learning as my clients are on the front lines of assisting people in northwest Ohio as they seek proper health services, essential goods needed for sheltering in place, and financial assistance – for individuals and businesses alike – as the economy continues to waver as the country attempts to contain the spread of COVID-19.

One of the most effective ways to reach concerned members of the public and share vital knowledge is through the news media, which is experiencing record growth across all platforms. In March, there were over 170 Coronavirus-specific special national telecasts across eight networks, and American households viewed more than 18 million hours of this content. In fact, the top 25 local markets saw an 11+/- percent increase in daily households viewing local news looking at the week of Feb. 10 vs. the week of March 9. (Source: StationView Essentials. Note: Data prior to March 4 is preliminary.)

Coordinating and linking up members of the news media with seasoned subject matter experts who are serving on the front lines of issues related to the Coronaviris pandemic, is important work; and, we take our role very seriously at Thread. Communications teams are indeed emerging as key players as companies work to deal with the effects of COVID-19, according to a new study from the Institute for Public Relations.

Effective communication about timely issues making major impacts on lives, business and community safety is pivotal and a true public service. I’m passionate about working alongside my clients and facing that challenge head on.

coronavirus-scam-picture-id1215436347This week, as federal stimulus checks start to hit mail boxes and bank accounts, I have been working with Jonathan Pollock, VP Compliance & Attorney at Law at Directions Credit Union, to communicate with concerned citizens about financial safety as fraud and scam attempts are at record highs. Criminals are using the current Coronavirus pandemic to make their fraud attempts more relevant in addition to preying on people’s concern and fear during these uncertain times.

With my support, Jon is out there talking with members of the news media, helping concerned citizens avoid scams and unsavory fraud attempts. Here are insightful tips from Jon and his team, which may help you, your loved ones, and friends.

Recognizing Standard Phone, Text & Email Fraud

If you receive phone calls from anyone claiming to be your financial institution and they are asking for information, do not give it. Your bank or credit union will not call and ask you for personal pieces of information – they already have it.

Look out for scammers who claim to be from your “card provider” or your financial institutions “fraud department” as well. Here’s how this scam goes: Criminals will contact you to verify that some current “transactions” are yours, and when you say no (because unknown to you, the transactions are fake), they’ll ask you for all your card information to “send you a new card.” The scammer can now use your card information immediately and run up fraud. The best course of action is always to hang up and call your financial institution directly.

Stimulus Payment Scams Are Coming!

Direct Deposit Scams

We know scam artists are going to exploit confusion around the government’s stimulus payment program to defraud people into giving up banking and personal information. Current stimulus payment scams include emails or texts saying, “click a link to get your early stimulus check.” Please be advised that you will not have to click any links to get your stimulus check.

If you do not have a direct deposit set up with the IRS, do not provide your banking credentials to anyone. The IRS has stated they will set up a secure portal this month for persons to input direct deposit information. Visit the IRS website, for more information. Do not allow anyone else to input your information on your behalf into the portal. 

If you are getting calls, emails, or texts from a government agency regarding these stimulus checks, it is a scam. Keep in mind the federal government will never try to solicit information from you by call, text, or email.

IRS Paper Check Scams

With the stimulus checks, you will either receive a direct deposit or paper check based on your prior year’s tax return information. If you do not have direct deposit, you will get a paper check.

If you receive a ‘stimulus check’ for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud!

Watch Out For COVID-19 Email & Website Scams

Computer scams are especially nasty because just one click can install malware to get sensitive data from your computer. With fears about the Coronavirus running rampant and misinformation all over the internet, it’s a great time to be a scammer. Be suspicious of any Coronavirus or COVID-19 emails you receive as well as the websites you visit. Here are things you might see … do not take the bait.

  • Phishing emails from the “World Health Organization” and “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Scammers are sending out emails that appear to be from the WHO and CDC but are attempting to get you to share personal information. For more information on phishing emails, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
  • Fake funding scams. Criminals invent a “research team” supposedly on the verge of discovering a cure for COVID-19 – they just need your donation. Of course, all funds donated to this alleged team will go directly into the scammers’ pockets. Only donate to verified causes.
  • Fake charities. Everyone wants to help those stricken by the virus but be sure to check out the authenticity of a charity before making your donation. If you’d like more information on charity scams, check out the FTC’s article “How to Donate Wisely and Avoid Charity Scams.”
  • Malicious websites. Scammers have set up websites full of information on COVID-19 to gain access to your device. Don’t download any links or open attachments from non-reputable sources. For the latest news, updates, and information, visit Coronavirus.gov.
  • The fake cure scam. Scammers are peddling bogus cures and vaccines. If you’re offered a drug or vaccine to fight Coronavirus – especially by a company you’ve never heard of – you’re looking at a scam. The FTC website currently states, “The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigatory products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.” To read more about what the FTC is doing to respond to the Coronavirus scams, visit the website.

Helping people and supporting their financial safety is very important to Jon and the entire Directions team. For more up-to-the-minute information about fraud, scams and other pressing financial issues, please visit Directions Credit Union; and, for media relations support during these troubling times, please feel free to connect with me.

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Topics: Public Relations, Community, Crisis Planning, Communications

Whitney Rofkar

Written by Whitney Rofkar