During the coronavirus pandemic, as trillions of dollars in stimulus funds flow to individuals and businesses, be aware that scammers are increasing the frequency and aggressiveness of their activity, targeting everyone, including retirees. Here are some tips to assist you in identifying and avoiding fraudulent activity.

Be suspicious of all unsolicited phone calls or emails.

No reputable organization, such as the MTRS, the IRS, or your bank, will contact you via phone or email asking for your personal or financial information.

It might not be a legitimate email or phone call.

Scammers try to trick you with emails and phone calls pretending to be from known organizations like the MTRS, your bank, government agencies such as the IRS or your city or town, or someone you know claiming to need money. They can “spoof” email addresses and phone numbers, making their fraudulent communication attempts look legitimate.

Do not provide personal or financial information via email or over the phone.

If you receive a suspicious email, do not click on any links, and do not reply or engage in any way. Delete the email immediately. Likewise, if you receive a suspicious phone call, do not engage and hang up immediately.

Don’t be rushed or pressured.

Most fraud schemes attempt to create a false sense of urgency and call on you to act quickly. Don’t allow scammers to pressure you into immediate action.

How can I tell if it’s real? Red flags for scams.

It can be difficult to identify potential scam emails; however, there are common red flags to look for such as grammar, punctuation and formatting errors. Look for language that creates a sense of urgency for you to act quickly. Carefully review both the links and email addresses to check for extra characters, dashes, or additional letters and numbers that don’t seem to belong. Place your mouse cursor, or “hover,” over a link or email address to reveal the link location or actual underlying email address.

Research the organization online.

If you wish to verify the legitimacy of a communication, contact the organization in question using contact information found on the official organization website. Do not attempt to verify legitimacy using any email addresses, phone numbers, or links embedded in the questionable communication. Independent research is especially important if you are considering donating money in response to an unsolicited phone call or email.

Always be wary and exercise extreme caution, especially during uncertain times. Any unsolicited or unexpected emails or phone calls should be treated as suspicious.

Please note that emails from the Massachusetts Teachers’ Retirement System will always come from addresses that end with @trb.state.ma.us.

For more information on avoiding scams, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website.