County of Marin - News Releases - Online Scammers

For Immediate Release
May 21, 2020

Vigilance Needed to Fend Off COVID-19 Scammers

Vulnerable Marin residents targeted, and cybersecurity education is urged

San Rafael, CA – In this time of sheltering and isolation, more older adults are learning how to use technology and are vulnerable to deceiving offers. The County of Marin’s Financial Abuse Specialist Team (FAST) is reminding older adults to be vigilant against scammers and learn more about cybersecurity practices.

A closeup of a person's hands working on a laptop computer with a cup of coffee in the foreground.Vulnerable and isolated adults may be contacted and offered fake testing kits or COVID-19 treatments in order for scammers to gain access to personal and financial information.
The coronavirus pandemic has changed and limited the way individuals connect with family, friends, and service providers. Vulnerable and isolated adults may be contacted and offered fake testing kits or COVID-19 treatments in order for scammers to gain access to personal and financial information.

“Scams related to the pandemic are proliferating,” said Mark Vanderscoff, the County’s Public Guardian. “We need our older residents to make sure they do not provide personal information, and especially money, to strangers who contact them via phone, email, or texting. The scammers are experts in the game of preying on the vulnerable, earning someone’s trust in a fraudulent way, and then taking advantage of them. Now more than ever, it is important for all of us to be aware and mention this to anyway who might show a tendency to let their guard down and fall victim.”

The FAST team is a coalition of specialists from the Public Guardian, Adult Protective Services, the Ombudsman’s Office – all sectors of the Marin County Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) – along with partners from the District Attorney’s Office, the Marin County Sheriff’s Office and other area law enforcement agencies, Legal Aid of Marin, and volunteers from the community.

FAST has experts in real estate, law, financial planning, taxation, accounting, investments, and annuities who know how to spot scams. They all share a common goal: to educate, prevent, and fight against the financial abuse of older and vulnerable adults. 

Vanderscoff, whose Public Guardian office manages the property, finances and personal care needs of those adjudicated by the court as substantially unable to provide for themselves, estimated that only about one in five of financial abuse crimes are ever discovered or reported.

“Unfortunately, the victims can be overwhelmed by embarrassment and shame, and they decide not to tell anybody about it,” he said. “It’s especially unfortunate when stolen funds are needed for basics like housing, food, and medical care.”

The best way to avoid the stigma is through education and communication. FAST team urges older adults to speak up with families and trusted friends about any requests they experience for personal information. Adults who have older parents who are new to using technology should pay attention to unusual banking transactions, notices of insufficient funds, uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums, and the closing of accounts without regard to penalties.

Cybersecurity best practices can be found at, a site offered by the National Cybersecurity Alliance.

Individuals who wish to report abuse or consult on matters related to scams and financial abuse should contact Adult Protective Services at (415) 473-2774. The District Attorney’s Consumer Protection Unit can be reached at (415) 473-6495.


Mark Vanderscoff
Public Guardian's Office
Health and Human Services

10 North San Pedro Rd.
Suite 1023
San Rafael, CA 94903
(415) 473-7185
Email: Mark Vanderscoff
Marin HHS website