Fraudsters are exploiting the fears and uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19) in an attempt to scam people out of their money and digital security.
These scams include everything from fraudulent emails that claim to be from the CDC, selling false promises by offering fake vaccines, to posing as victims in need of cash for treatment (these will typically ask for a wire transfer).
Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission on how to stay one step ahead and avoid these scams:
- Don't click on links from sources you don't know. These links could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
- Be skeptical of 'urgent' appeals for money. You might get an email request to wire funds to a "friend impacted by Coronavirus" in another country, somebody you've never met. Remember: other countries have national healthcare, so victims of the virus don't need our help to pay for medical care or treatment.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or from experts saying the have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the virus, check the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization's (WHO) websites.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads claiming prevention, treatment, or cures for the Coronavirus, ask yourself: if there had been a medical breakthrough, would I hear about it for the first time through an ad or sales pitch?
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don't let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, gift cards, or through a wire transfer, don't do it.
- Be suspicious of "investment opportunities." The U.S Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure Coronavirus, and that the stock of these companies will increase dramatically as a result. There is no evidence to support this.
- Be cautious of robocalls offering at-home tests. According to recent reports, fraudsters are placing an estimated 1 million robocalls daily. These calls offer at-home Coronavirus tests for a fee. Again, ask yourself: if there was a medical breakthrough, would I hear about it for the first time through an automated sales call?
- There is no door-to-door testing going on. There have been reports of scammers and would-be-thieves going door-to-door offering at-home testing in what is likely a distraction robbery attempt. Always be cautious before you let anybody you don't know into your home. And check the websites of trusted organizations for updates on current COVID-19 testing practices.
People are understandably concerned about the Coronavirus (COVID-19). And the scammers are using that to their advantage. These tips could help you stay one step ahead, keeping your money and digital security healthy.
You can sign up for consumer alerts from the FTC by clicking here. And if you come across any suspicious claims, you can report them by clicking here.