Multiple COVID-19 coronavirus scam warnings issued
Avoiding COVID-19 Scams
By David S. Nilsen
Obispo Wealth Management
Scammers, fraudsters, and other criminals are taking advantage of rapidly changing data and facts associated with COVID-19, both in the workplace and in our homes. Government agencies, corporations, and news outlets continue to warn individuals to be mindful of increased fraudulent activities during these uncertain times.
These scams, which can be sent via email, text message, and social media claim to provide COVID-19 updates, sell products, ask for charitable donations, or reference government aid packages. These messages appear to be legitimate in nature but seek to fraudulently obtain personal information, financial gain, and create panic. Use these tips to identify and avoid scams:
Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts claiming to have inside information on the virus. There are currently no vaccines, potions, lozenges, or other prescriptions available online or in-store to treat or cure COVID-19.
Do your homework prior to donating to charities or crowdfunding sites. Confirm the validity of the organization as fraudsters are now advertising fake charities. Do not let anyone rush you into a donation, particularly those who ask for cash, gift cards, or wiring of funds.
Do not click on links or open attachments from sources you do not know. Cybercriminals are using the COVID-19 headline as a tactic to spread viruses and steal information. Do not provide personal information, payment information or sensitive workplace information via suspicious email addresses.
Be suspicious of urgent demands and emergency requests. The health and safety of you and your family is the top priority. Do not fall for scammers threatening fees or fines, cancelled deliveries, and health concerns in exchange for financial gain.
If it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Many individuals have begun to receive robo-calls and social media requests for social security numbers, banking information, and gift cards. Scammers promise high paying work from home opportunities, free sanitation and cleaning, as well as COVID-19 protection in exchange for payment and sensitive information.
Be mindful of scammers using government aid packages for criminal gain. Lawmakers have announced plans to send Americans checks to assist with the financial burden of the virus, with details still in discussion. The government will not request payment, nor will anyone reach out requesting personally sensitive health or financial information in exchange for financial support.
Obtain your news from a trusted source. Be mindful of text message scams, social media polls and fraudulent email accounts sharing false information to create panic. Before acting on information, review its source and check a trusted news outlet to confirm its validity.
When in doubt, ask a coworker, family member, or friend for their opinion. Two sets of eyes are better than one. If you believe you have fallen victim of a scam, call your local police at their non-emergency number and consider reporting to the FBI’s IC3 Internet Crime Database.
Tips for avoiding online COVID-19 scams
1. Family scams
Grandparent and family scams often occur at night and target older adults. You will answer your phone and hear someone saying, “Grandma” or “Grandpa”. Maybe you’re a little tired, as it’s the evening and you don’t think twice when they ask you for a loan.
They’ll say that they’ve contracted the virus and are homebound and in quarantine. They will ask you to send them a gift card online, immediately, so they can buy delivery food or supplies. You’ll be upset and do so, without thinking twice. The caller will actually be a scammer and keep your money.
How to Avoid: Always check your caller ID to make sure it is actually your loved one calling you. If you feel like scammers are masking the caller ID to make it seem like it’s your loved one, call them back on their trusted phone number to confirm and verify it’s them. Don’t send money over the phone, even if it is someone you think you trust and always give it to them in person.
2. Quack alert
You might love natural products, but if people are trying to sell you colloidal silver or aromatherapy to combat the virus, you’re being scammed. There are currently no viable antibiotics for the Coronavirus and natural products are not, in any way, proven to do the trick and fight this illness.
The FTC is compiling these fraudulent scams and products and has released a list. You might see these scam products shared on social media with testimonials or warnings about the disease, don’t fall for them and keep your money for items you might actually need if you’re sick (like tissues or face masks).
How to Avoid: Do not believe anyone who says they have found a natural remedy to cure the Coronavirus. Chances are they just want to sell you fake products so that they can take your hard-earned money to leave you broke and sick. The only ways to get better from the Coronavirus are to get rest, go to the doctor, and keep hydrated.
3. Fake vaccines
You love your friends and family and don’t want them to fall ill. However, if you are asked to contribute to a fund to develop a vaccine to fight against Coronavirus, you’re being scammed!
You might even receive a “secret” call, email, or text about a supposed government vaccine that only you and a select few are privy to. If it sounds too good to be true it is, especially in regards to the coronavirus. Don’t give the solicitor your credit card information, or it will be compromised/stolen and used!
How to Avoid: Don’t listen to anyone who asks you for money over the phone, no matter what the excuse is! If someone you don’t know asks for money over the phone, chances are they are probably a scammer trying to steal your money. Hospitals and universities will be the ones to help fund vaccines and research to try and find a cure, and they won’t bug people on the phone to help them.
4. Fake CDC and WHO emails
You receive a fake email that looks legitimate. It reads as if it was sent from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). The email might link to a product that will “help you” However, the email is actually a scam and not really sent by the organization it appears to be from.
How to Avoid: Don’t click on any email that claims it has a product to help cure you of the coronavirus. The cure will be on legitimate news pages before an email gets sent out listing a cure for this illness. If you still aren’t sure of whether to trust the email, look at the “reply to” email address and all hyperlinks in the email. They will link you to outside websites that are not secure and can collect all your financial data or download malware.
Tips for avoiding telephone COVID-19 scams
As always, don’t answer calls from numbers or callers you don’t recognize. If it’s important, they’ll leave a message and you can call them back.
Always confirm a callback number on the company’s website before returning a call. Scammers will spoof a legitimate business number to look authentic so you answer but then leave a different number when requesting a callback. It’s a huge red flag that you are getting a potential scam call.
Be suspect of anyone offering something that seems too good to be true or requires immediate action while you’re on the phone. If someone calls to offer you COVID-19 anything over the phone, it’s likely a scam. Always be suspect of unsolicited calls that ask you to take immediate action while you are on the phone.
Pressuring you to act right always a key scammer tactic to get their hands on your hard-earned money, like prepaying for home air duct cleaning or paying for an easier loan repayment.
Always check known reliable sources, like the CDC and FCC websites, for the latest information.
Do your research on donations. If you receive a call from a charity or organization asking for donations, do your homework before donating. Don’t donate while on the line. Hang up and make your donation directly through their website if that’s an option. If not, call the organization directly from the number listed on their website.
Be suspect of anyone who demands that you pay immediately over the phone or if they only want donations in cash, by gift card or by wiring money immediately. Chances are high it’s a scam.
Never share personal information on an unexpected call from any organization. Just like donation requests, hang up and verify who is calling you before you proceed.
Turn on your wireless provider’s scam identification and scam blocking services. All major providers offer a scam identification or scam blocking service for free but according to a recent survey by First Orion, an overwhelming 82 percent of consumers do not currently use a scam call-blocking service.