Fraudsters are opportunists and take advantage of humanitarian crises to exploit fearful consumers. The COVID-19 virus, also referred to as Coronavirus, is the latest example of this.
Below are some examples of scams you should be aware of:
Hackers are sending emails, creating websites and developing phone apps related to the virus designed to trick people into clicking on malicious links disguised as helpful resources. These scams can contain malware that steal online banking credentials or credit card numbers.
A fraudulent website, claimed to provide an updated virus map just like the one at Johns Hopkins, was created and circulated. The map had embedded a type of spyware that steals usernames, passwords, and credit card numbers stored in the user’s browser. This is an example of copycat sites to beware of.
Bogus charities are being created requesting donations – via website, email or phone to supposedly assist areas heavily impacted by the virus.
Fake products are being advertised online, such as COVID-19 vaccinations (which currently don't exist) or test kits.
With pending legislation, the government may soon be sending out checks via mail or direct deposit. While these details are still be worked out, this Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website provides important tips to be aware of: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/checks-government?utm_source=govdelivery
Many Americans are now working and schooling from home. There are significant challenges that can lead to digital vulnerabilities when setting up and adjusting to a work from home environment. This link to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) will provide some tips for protecting your devices and personal information. https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/online-security-tips-working-home?utm_source=govdelivery
Consumers place a significant amount of trust in the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). Scammers are using the FDIC name and logo to take advantage of this trust and capture personal identifiable information through a variety of communication channels including emails, phone calls, letters, text messages, faxes, and social media. Click here to learn more about these scams and how you can protect yourself from imposters - https://www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/news/march2020.html?source=govdelivery&utm_medium=email&utm_source=govdelivery
Here are some steps you can take to protect yourself from COVID-19 scams:
- Android Apps related to COVID-19 have been found and taken down, however they will be a continual threat as Android apps are available from multiple sources, many of which do not vet the apps for safety. There is less of a threat with apps from the Apple platform as their apps are reviewed prior to release.
- Obtain your information from known, credible sites like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Unsolicited calls, texts, emails: Do not answer or hang up if you suspect a phone call seems out of the ordinary. Delete unsolicited texts and emails. Phone numbers and email addresses can be spoofed to appear to be a reputable source. If the email comes from someone you know, call them to ask if they sent it.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines or other products available to treat or cure COVID-19 online or in stores.
- If you receive a call to make a donation, hang up and research the charity independently using sites such as Guidestar.org. Any request for donations or payment by gift card, wire transfer or cash are scams.
How to Respond to a Scam
If you do become a victim of a scam, take immediate action; you could potentially recover some money if you act fast!
Contact: Your bank, credit card issuer, local police and credit agencies to place a fraud alert or credit freeze.
Report Fraud: Federal Trade Commission (FTC): www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov or Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI): www.ic3.gov