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Urgent Public Service Announcement: Avoid COVID-19 Stimulus Check Fraud

The coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has ground much of the country to a halt. To help ease the financial strain, the government has passed a stimulus bill, called the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act. Under this Act, adults that qualify will receive a one-time $1,200 stimulus check, though some could receive less. For every qualifying child under age 16, the payment will increase by $500, according to this FAQ published by the New York Times.

What Scams to Watch For: COVID-19 Stimulus Check Fraud

This mass distribution of money creates the potential for fraud, and there are already some cases being reported. The confusion over how and when the checks will be issued has not helped. According to a recent article from Forbes, here are some ways fraudsters are taking advantage of people:

SCAM #1: Someone contacts you via phone, email, social media, or text message and suggests that you might qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant and that it's necessary to first verify your identity and process your request.

TRUTH: They’re trying to steal your identity. There is no such grant. Do NOT give out any private information, such as your Social Security Number or bank account number.

SCAM #2: Someone contacts you and claims that you can get more money from the government, or get your stimulus check faster. They just need to verify your information and collect a “processing fee.”

TRUTH: The stimulus bill offers a specific benefit to qualifying individuals. No one can get you more money from the government, and no one can give it to you sooner.

SCAM #3: Someone claiming to be the IRS calls you to verify your direct deposit details so that you can receive your stimulus check.

TRUTH: While it is true that the IRS will direct deposit your stimulus check into a direct deposit account associated with your tax return (or cut you a paper check), they will NOT call you to confirm those details. Anyone who claims to be the IRS on the phone asking for your financial information is a scammer.

Stimulus Check Facts from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

To further clarify for the public what to expect and not to expect, FTC Associate Director in the Division of Consumer and Business Education, Jennifer Leach, published a blog on the FTC’s website. In it, she clarified some key points to help consumers spot and avoid fraud:

  • The government will not ask you to pay up front to get your stimulus check.
  • The government will not contact you to ask for your Social Security Number, bank account number, or credit card number.
  • As of March 30, checks have not yet been issued. Any check you may have received thus far is bogus. If it requires you to verify information online or by other means before you can cash or deposit it, it’s definitely fake.
  • You cannot do anything to receive your check sooner. It will come when it comes.

Leach further notes that, no matter what form it takes, or when it takes effect, anyone asking you to pay to receive your stimulus is a scammer. You can report scams to the FTC if you encounter one, and learn about known scams related to the COVID-19 outbreak and how to avoid them.

“We’re the IRS!”

No, they aren’t. Anyone calling and claiming to be the IRS is a scammer, whether they’re talking about the stimulus check or not. Here’s a checklist, in case you’re wondering whether that “IRS” call is legitimate. When in doubt, it’s likely a scam!

  • The IRS will never call you to demand immediate payment by phone.
  • The IRS will never call you about taxes owed without first mailing you a bill.
  • The IRS will never threaten to dispatch local police or law enforcement to arrest you.
  • The IRS will never demand you pay a tax bill without allowing you to question or appeal the amount you owe.
  • The IRS will not require a specific payment method, such as a prepaid debit card or wire transfer.
  • The IRS will never ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Businesses Are Also Getting Scammed

Fraudsters look for any opportunity to siphon funds off of the unwary. Businesses, especially small businesses, are vulnerable to a few methods.

These are often perpetrated by robocalls – auto-dialed recorded messages that listen for responses from the victim. Some of these robocalls may make claims about the availability of special funds or loans for businesses for COVID-19 relief if the business will verify or enter some private information, pay a fee, and so on. Some may attempt to convince the business that they have some sort of online listing that is pending verification, and will again attempt to gain access to private information.

These calls often use scare tactics and high-pressure scripts to make people react out of fear. If you think you’ve fallen victim to a coronavirus or COVID-19 scam, we encourage you to contact law enforcement immediately.

What to Do If You Are Contacted by a Scammer

First and foremost, do not give them any information. In fact, it’s best just to hang up if you accidentally answer. Do not say anything. Just hang up or end the call. Don’t engage them in any way, even to tell them you’re onto them.

If you receive text messages, do not respond, and under no circumstances should you click any links they may contain. Delete these texts immediately.

Emails are another common method, and they do not always come directly from scammers. Well-meaning people who believe they’re helpfully sharing information – via email or social media – can contribute to the spread of fraud. Do not click links in those emails or forward them to anyone. Delete them.

In addition to reporting scams to the FTC, you can report them to the Better Business Bureau (BBB), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) or check out their scam alert page.

Stay Safe From COVID-19 and the Scammers Looking to Make a Buck

The Law Offices of James Scott Farrin continue to work for our clients and accept cases during this crisis, although how we serve you has changed a bit. Fraud of this kind falls outside of our legal expertise, but we are putting this information out because our community’s health and safety are important to us. Don’t let yourself or others fall victim of stimulus check fraud. Please share this post with everyone you know, as it may prevent a scammer from succeeding.

And if you or someone you know has been hurt through no fault of their own, the HurtLine is always open at 1-866-900-7078, or you can contact us contact us online for a free consultation. We’re ready to help you.

Categories: Coronavirus General

Can You Claim Workers’ Compensation If You Were Exposed to Coronavirus at Work?

If you haven’t heard of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you’ve probably been living under a rock. And if that’s the case, you may want to stay there. We’ve all heard stories about people getting quarantined on cruise ships or at hotels due to the fear of the disease spreading. You may have seen someone walking around with a mask covering their face while out at a store or at an airport.

COVID-19 symptoms may manifest anywhere between 2 to 14 days after you’ve been exposed.* Moreover, the symptoms can closely resemble the common cold or flu, so it’s important to stay vigilant with washing your hands and staying home if you feel unwell.

*According to the CDC, this is based on what has been seen previously as the incubation period of MERS-CoV viruses.

What Happens If You Were Exposed to Coronavirus (COVID-19) or Another Dangerous Virus at Work?

Your work may have taken steps to help contain the spread, like asking employees to work from home and grounding all travel. But what happens if you were exposed to coronavirus at work anyway? What if your symptoms don’t show up until later? Does your employer have to cover your medical bills through their workers’ compensation coverage? Are you legally entitled to benefits if you can’t work due to the disease?

As with many things in law, there are no clear-cut black and white answers to whether an infectious disease contracted at work could be covered by workers’ compensation laws. In North Carolina, coverage for workers’ compensation injuries is divided into two broad categories:

  1. Injuries that occurred by an accident or sometimes a specific traumatic event (i.e. spinal injuries or hernias); and
  2. Those caused by an occupational disease

We focus on occupational diseases below, as it is the most directly related to a potential workers’ compensation claim for coronavirus.

North Carolina Workers' Compensation Occupational Diseases

North Carolina Workers’ Compensation: Occupational Diseases

In North Carolina, occupational diseases can be covered either by:

For example, certain conditions like asbestosis and silicosis are assumed to be occupational diseases in nature. They fall under a category that is listed and covered by state law.

Diseases that are not listed are only covered by workers’ comp if they are peculiar to a trade, occupation, or employment. The law goes on to exclude ordinary diseases of life when the public is equally exposed to the risk, like the common cold or flu.

COVID-19 is, for now, a relatively rare condition in the state, but there are already several confirmed cases in North Carolina. Exposure to the condition has been limited as those infected were told to self-quarantine in their homes. However, just because it is a rare condition does not mean it is an ordinary disease like the flu or a common cold.

Does the Nature of Your Work Put You More at Risk to Exposure to Coronavirus?

A person’s employment may put them in contact with the virus if they travel for work to an area where they are unwittingly exposed to other carriers of the virus. So if you travel for work and are exposed to coronavirus, do you automatically have a workers’ compensation claim? It depends. Simply being exposed in a work setting will not likely be sufficient for it to be covered under workers’ compensation laws. In North Carolina, for an injury to be covered by workers’ comp insurance, the person’s occupation would have to place them more at risk for contracting the virus than the general public. So you may want to ask yourself: Does the nature of my job place me more at risk of being exposed and contracting coronavirus than the general public? One large, and perhaps most obvious, example of a group that this may apply to is healthcare workers.

North Carolina Healthcare Workers, Coronavirus, and Workers’ Comp Laws

At the forefront of the battle against novel coronavirus, healthcare workers serve a vital role for diagnosis and treatment of the illness. Healthcare workers certainly would be a category of people who cannot avoid contact with a potentially infected person due to the nature of their work. We also know that more healthcare workers have contracted the virus than any other profession, and it has recently been reported that nearly 3,000 Chinese healthcare workers have gotten the coronavirus.

In North Carolina, simply being a healthcare worker may not be sufficient for employers to be required to extend coverage through workers’ compensation laws in the state. Even if a healthcare worker could prove that they were more at risk for contracting the disease, they would not necessarily be able to prove the claim.

A final element of proving you are entitled to coverage would be showing the work caused the condition. If a condition becomes commonplace, it is unlikely that you would be able to prove the condition arose at the employment. This may be a smaller hurdle due to the limited number of cases of coronavirus currently. However, it still could be a hurdle that would prevent a healthcare worker from obtaining necessary medical and disability coverage.

One fix for healthcare workers who are particularly at risk would be for the North Carolina legislature to mandate coverage for COVID-19 as a listed disease. It may be worth considering from a public policy standpoint to protect people who are placing their lives at risk to care for the injured and sick. Healthcare workers are in a demanding occupation with long hours and difficult jobs. Providing special protection for these workers would perhaps make sense given the nature of the risk we currently face.

NC Workers’ Compensation Lawyers: We’re Here for You

As we at the Law Offices of James Scott Farrin continue to closely monitor the COVID-19 pandemic, we also continue to serve our clients who were injured at work. We are committed to working with, and for, our clients, even as we remain vigilant of how this pandemic will affect our state.

If you were injured at work in North Carolina, please do not hesitate to call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us here.

Contact Information

Asheville Law Office

300 Ridgefield Court Suite 309
Asheville, NC 28806
Phone: 828-552-8215
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Charlotte Law Office

301 S McDowell St, Suite 900
Charlotte, NC 28204
Phone: 704-599-1078
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Durham Law Office

280 South Mangum Street, Suite 400
Durham, NC 27701
Phone: 919-688-4991
Fax: 800-716-7881

Fayetteville Law Office

2915 Raeford Road, Suite 204
Fayetteville, NC 28303
Phone: 910-488-0611
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Goldsboro Law Office

1308 Wayne Memorial Drive, Suite B
Goldsboro, NC 27534
Phone: 919-731-2581
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greensboro Law Office

300 N. Greene Street, Suite 850
Greensboro, North Carolina 27401
Phone: 336-665-7072
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Greenville Law Office

702 Cromwell Dr. Suite G
Greenville, NC 27858
Phone: 252-355-5205
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3227

Henderson Law Office

514 Dabney Drive, Suite 200
Henderson, NC 27536
Phone: 252-492-4600
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Morganton Law Office

216 N. Sterling Street, Suite B
Morganton, NC 28655
Phone: 828-219-3080
Toll Free: 1-844-520-2894

New Bern Law Office

1505 South Glenburnie Rd, Unit P
New Bern, NC 28562
Phone: 252-634-9010
Toll Free: 1-866-780-3422

Raleigh Law Office

4325 Lake Boone Trail, Suite 100
Raleigh, NC 27607
Phone: 919-834-1184
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Roanoke Rapids Law Office

709 Julian R. Allsbrook Highway
Roanoke Rapids, NC 27870
Phone: 252-537-9670
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Rocky Mount Law Office

144 Woodridge Court
Rocky Mount, NC 27804
Phone: 252-937-4730
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Sanford Law Office

703-B South Horner Boulevard
Sanford, NC 27330
Phone: 919-775-1564
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Wilson Law Office

2315 Airport Blvd Suite A
Wilson, North Carolina 27896
Phone: 252-246-9090
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078

Winston-Salem Law Office

301 N. Main Street, Suite 2409-C
Winston-Salem, NC 27101
Toll Free: 1-866-900-7078