Pa. releases tips to avoid coronavirus scams | Wednesday Morning Coffee

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Good Wednesday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

With coronavirus cases increasing in Pennsylvania and nationwide, it’s inevitable that someone is going to try to make an ill-gotten buck off the growing public health crisis.

With that in mind, officials at the Pennsylvania Department of Banking & Securities have put out a tip sheet to avoid getting scammed in the midst of the outbreak.

As of midday Tuesday, Pennsylvania had 11 cases, eight of them in Montgomery County, according to the Pennsylvania Department of Health. Officials in Philadelphia also reported a case in the city, according to multiple news outlets.

“Consumers should be on alert for increased fraud during major events such as the outbreak of COVID-19,” Acting Banking Secretary Richard Vague said in a statement. “Scams are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and scam artists are taking advantage of people, making every attempt to separate you from your hard-earned money.”

Below, you’ll find what you need to watch for, and how to avoid falling prey to scammers.

Pennsylvania Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine. Source: Pennsylvania Department of Health.

First up, and this should be axiomatic: Don’t share your financial information with someone who’s made an unsolicited contact.

Also beware of, according to the Banking Department:

  • “Sense of urgency and limited time offers. Scammers will attempt to prompt you into immediate action and catch you off guard. No government agency will call you asking for payment or take punitive action against you if you don’t act quickly.
  • “Payment with wire transfer or gift cards. Once information is provided, the money is essentially gone and you cannot get it back.
  • “Secrecy and the need to not tell anyone. Never make a decision without consulting a credible and trustworthy source.
  • “Low or minimal risks with guaranteed high returns. Be cautious of any offer that guarantees a high rate of return with little or no risk or does not disclose risk.
  • “Unsolicited offers, including social media avenues. A new post on your Facebook wall, a tweet mentioning you, a direct message, an email, a text, a phone call, or any other unsolicited communication regarding an investment “opportunity” related to coronavirus (COVID-19),” the agency said in a statement.

And watch for these red flags, the agency added:

  • “Has someone contacted you unexpectedly? If you weren’t expecting a phone call or didn’t initiate the contact, it should be a red flag.
  • “Have they promised you something? If they’re offering you something that seems too good to be true, it’s a red flag.
  • “Have they asked you to do something? Are they asking you for money or account information? If you didn’t initiate the conversation, don’t provide it,” the Banking Department said in a statement.

Some added tips: If you’ve received an unsolicited call, hang up. Never provide credit card or other sensitive information to someone who has called you unsolicited. And if they’re pressuring you to act now, hang up.

In other words, when in doubt, hang up.

If you think someone’s trying to take advantage of you, or if you’ve been on the receiving end of a shady offer, you can call the state at 1-800-PA-BANKS or 1-800-722-2657 to report it. So far, the state has no reported instances of such scams, but you can never be too careful.

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Hey! Kids! More Ads!
The liberal super PAC American Bridge is back on the air in Pennsylvania with a new commercial once again featuring a voter who supported President Donald Trump in 2016 and who has since had a change of heart.

The new ad features an older Pennsylvanian named “Janie” who says she’s been let down by Trump because his promises on healthcare and his entitlement cuts to Social Security and Medicare. The new ad is part of a larger, $10 million campaign targeting voters in key battleground states.

“Our path to 270 in November runs directly through the key swing states that provided Donald Trump a razor-thin margin of victory in 2016. American Bridge’s critical effort to peel away his core group of supporters that made those victories possible is already yielding promising results, and there’s more to come,” American Bridge‘s president and founder, Bradley Beychok, said in a statement. “We will continue to take the fight to Donald Trump to deny him the margins he needs and to ensure he will be a one-term president.”

The Capital-Star was able to confirm that the woman featured in the ad, a resident of Westmoreland County, did vote in 2016.

The $2.2 million buy launches Wednesday in markets across the state.

The Pennsylvania Capitol building. (Capital-Star photo by Sarah Anne Hughes)

Our Stuff.
Stephen Caruso
 has more coronavirus coverage. This morning he runs down how the virus, which has roiled markets worldwide, has affected Pennsylvania’s bottom line. And Elizabeth Hardison runs down the latest information from the state Health Department. And from our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, here’s what you need to know about the first coronavirus case in Pennsylvania’s biggest city.

In this week’s edition of The Numbers Racket, Associate Editor Cassie Miller crunches the data on the state of health insurance and primary care in Pennsylvania.

And in a recurring series of profiles of women running in 2020, Miller chats with Democratic state Senate hopeful Michelle Siegel, who’s running for the Columbia County-based 27th Senate District seat now held by GOP Sen. John Gordner.

Starting with this April’s primary election, voters in Erie County will find two big changes to the way they cast their ballotsCapital-Star Correspondent Hannah McDonald explains.

Capital-Star Correspondent Nick Field delves into the latest voter registration numbers and finds that Pennsylvania’s Red/Blue divide is growing ever deeper.

Also, from our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune, a look at how two Philadelphia nonprofits observed National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Tuesday.

On our Commentary Page, Jake Miller, a middle school history teacher in suburban Harrisburg, offers his cure for our ‘election infection.’ And opinion regular Bruce Ledewitz explains why it’s time for the left to let go of its hang up on undoing Citizens United.

Love Park in Philadelphia (Photo via Flickr Commons)

Elsewhere.
Philadelphia is having trouble filling open building code and building inspector jobs, the Inquirer reports.
Pennsylvania is barred from releasing details on coronavirus cases because of ‘a decades old law,’ the Post-Gazette reports.
Harrisburg residents are rallying around a City Council resolution in support of a proposed state law that would allow undocumented immigrants to have drivers licensesPennLive reports.
Muhlenberg College is ending in-person classes because of coronavirus concerns, the Morning Call reports.

Here’s a very sunny #Philadelphia Instagram of the Day:

The Philadelphia Land Bank has put off plans to redevelop Kensington gardens into new housing, WHYY-FM reports.
The PA Post has some more answers to your coronavirus questions.
Stateline.org looks at how lawmakers in Washington State, a coronavirus epicenter, are trying to do their jobs.
Congressional staffers are looking at working remotely because of coronavirus concerns, Roll Call reports.

What Goes On.
The House Democratic Policy Committee moves its traveling roadshow down U.S. Route 611 to Philadelphia, for a 2 p.m. on the campus of Temple University, where they’ll tackle labor jobs and apprenticeships.

WolfWatch.
Gov. Tom Wolf,
 joined by other state officials, will conduct a 1 p.m. briefing at PEMA HQ in suburban Harrisburg, on the latest coronavirus developments.

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition).
State Senate candidate Nicole Ziccarelli holds a 5 p.m. reception at the Embassy Suites in Pittsburgh. Admission runs $500 to $2,500.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Best wishes go out to Tim Mack, in the office of U.S. Rep. Madeleine Dean, D-4th District, who celebrates today. Congrats and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation.
And for the birthday boy, here’s a bit of legendary English MC Wiley and “Been A While.”

Wednesday’s Gratuitous Hockey Link.
Carolina 
beat Detroit 5-2 on Tuesday night, picking up some steam in the Eastern Conference wild card race.

And now you’re up to date.