Stay aware of coronavirus scams
Unfortunately, in these trying times scammers are trying to take advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus. These fraudsters are looking to take advantages of consumers and businesses, finding any way to exploit concerns about the COVID-19 public health crisis.
Scams are coming by way of phone, email and text, as well as other ways like fraudulent checks, so it’s important to stay aware of these tactics. Here’s what to watch for, as well as tips to keep scammers at bay:
• Don’t respond.
You may get a text message that appears to be from the U.S. government, urging recipients for information – or to fill out a fake census form – to receive their stimulus checks. No matter the message, do not click on it. These texts are phishing for personal information, which could make you at risk for identity theft. Government agencies don’t typically communicate through text messages, nor will it ask for money up front to receive your stimulus payment or for payment to obtain it quicker. You also do not have to sign up to receive it. The IRS will use prior tax returns to calculate payment and deposit into a listed account. Lastly, the government will never contact you for your personal bank information or social security number, so always avoid giving that information over the phone, online or through text.
• Don’t listen to robocalls.
Scammers use illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. It will say pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls trying to steal your money and information. Simply hang up before pressing anything.
• Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits.
Scammers want you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the coronavirus, or even items like masks that end up being a scam. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the coronavirus.
• Avoid public health scams.
Fraudsters are sending messages that claim to be from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, or other public health offices. They may ask for Social Security numbers, tax IDs, etc. Other variations direct you to click on a link or download a document. Simply put, don’t respond to messages like this – and definitely don’t download anything or click on links in an unsolicited email. It’s the latest form of phishing aimed at stealing confidential data or installing malware. Only use trusted sources from legitimate government websites for current, fact-based information on COVID-19.
• Don’t click.
If you don’t know the source of the email or website, don’t click the link or the ad. It could download viruses onto your computer or device. The safer strategy is to use websites you know to be genuine. Online scammers may claim to have indemand products, like cleaning, household and health and medical supplies, when, if fact, they’re simply trying to steal your information.
• Watch for IT scams.
This call or message claims to come from a member of your workplace’s technology staff asking for a password or directing the recipient to download software. These scams pose a particular problem now due to what cybercrime experts call social engineering. Scammers may do a quick online search to gain information and then send a link. Your best defense is knowing what to expect ahead of time so you don’t click the link.
• Do your homework.
If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it. Asking for a donation in that way is likely the sign of a scam. Make sure you verify a charity’s authenticity before making a donation.
If you spot something you believe to be a scam, but you’re unsure, we’re here for you. You can report it to the FTC, and we’re also available 24/7 to help keep you and your financial information safe. If you have questions, you can reach us anytime at 888-474-7275.