COVID-19 Scams: Warnings And Safety Tips

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The coronavirus has no doubt disrupted our lives. While most Americans are adjusting to new normals regarding income, school, social gatherings and more, cyber criminals aren’t taking a break.

Scammers are feeding on fears and playing to emotions, which means scams are appearing in many forms. Below are just some of the scams (including examples) you might encounter online, on the phone or in person. It’s important to familiarize yourself with the red flags to look for to protect yourself and loved ones from these threats.

Emails With Fake COVID-19 Information

While the country faces an unprecedented situation, cyber criminals try to capitalize on the public’s demand for information. Scammers impersonate emails from trusted organizations like the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). These messages can include links and attachments, which instead lead to the scammer’s sites. By opening one of the attached files or clicking on the links, cybercriminals can gain access to your computer by installing malware to infect your devices.

Illegitimate Supplies And Undelivered Goods

With the increase of online shopping due to “stay at home” orders in most states, scammers are using this as an opportunity to “sell” products. They’re setting up websites where you can purchase cleaning products, health and medical supplies and even toilet paper! You can place an order, but the catch? You’ll never receive the goods.

Before you place an order for any product online, look into these sellers by doing a search for the company name, phone number and email address. Look for reviews and for keywords such as “scam,” or “complaint.” If your search reveals no red flags and you’re confident the site is legitimate, pay only by credit card and keep record of the transaction.

Fake COVID-19 Remedies And Vaccines

Another scam that could have potentially dangerous effects are claims of having the cure to coronavirus. For example, televangelist Jim Bakker stated his product can kill the virus within 12 hours. The WHO and the Food & Drug Administration (FDA) warn these “remedies” are not treatments that can prevent or cure the virus.

In addition to fake remedies being circulated, there are also phony vaccines, promising to prevent or cure COVID-19. A website claiming to give away free vaccine kits from the WHO was engaged in a wire fraud scheme trying to funnel money from individuals who fell for their deceit.

Keep up with the latest in preventative measures and vaccine pursuits by using trusted sources, such as the FDA and CDC websites.

Bogus Charities

With more than 150 countries affected, major healthcare networks and companies look for ways to help. Scammers take advantage of generosity by creating their own fake charities to donate to. Scammers are becoming a lot bolder by using names that sound similar to the names of real charities.

Before you donate money or aid to any charity, do your research first so you can ensure your money is going to authentic organizations working to make a difference.

Here’s an example of a charity scam attempt to collect donations for COVID-19.  The email also includes a QR code to quickly donate to a deceptive charity claiming to be backed by well-known organizations like UNICEF and GlobalGiving.

Financial Assistance Scams

Another wave of scams taking off are phone calls regarding government stimulus checks and financial assistance. Below is an example of a script from a robocall scam:

Hello this is Brett PJ with an important message regarding the effects of the Coronavirus outbreak on your student loans … new measures will include the interest on your federal student loans until further notice … For more information on how these new measures will impact your future payment obligations, call us back today at [phone number].

To protect yourself, hang up the phone when these calls come. If the recording says to press a number to speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, do not press anything besides End Call. The additional press of any number might lead you to more robocalls in the future.

Preventative Measures You Can Take

To avoid being a victim of any coronavirus scams, stay updated using trusted sources, such as the Centers for Disease Control, the World Health Organization, and the Food & Drug Association. When receiving any emails, phone calls, texts, or mail, be sure to double check if the sender is legitimate. Check the validity on charities you may want to donate to, as well as any financial assistance programs that may catch your attention. We may be living in a time of uncertainty, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be certain you are receiving trustworthy information to make the right decisions for yourself or a loved one.