It seems that overnight our world has turned completely upside down. As quickly as we all started working from home, social distancing and hoarding toilet paper, scammers and hackers created new ways to try to take advantage of us during this vulnerable time. The most important things to remember when it comes to scams are 1) if it’s too good to be true, it is; 2) do not open email attachments or click links from senders you do not know; and 3) never give anyone your social security number or personal financial information when it is solicited over the phone or computer.
Product Related Scams
One of the most common types of online scams you will notice are COVID-19 product related scams. Ignore online offers for vaccinations, as these do not yet exist. Also ignore ads selling prevention, treatment, or cures for the Coronavirus. If there’s been a medical breakthrough, you hear about it through official channels such as messages from the CDC or White House, not through an ad or sales pitch. Other product related scams include selling of COVID-19 tests and offers of fake decontamination services.
Cash Related Scams
Another form of scams is fraudulent offers to obtain money from the government. While it is likely this will become a reality, any texts or emails you receive about checks from the government are false as of the date of this post. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer, especially if they ask for your banking information to make a deposit right into your account.
Investment Related Scams
Another form of scams that are on the rise are fraudulent “investment opportunities” claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. Anyone urging you to invest in new stocks related to COVID-19 should be ignored since these products and services are not even available and the investments would not be solicited in this manner.
Charity Related Scams
One of the most upsetting scams when it comes to a crisis is fraudulent charities. These scammers prey on your emotions and will try to make you think your contributions will save people’s lives or stop the virus. Please make sure you do a good amount of research before making any donations. If someone asks for donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it. It is wonderful to support charities that are supporting communities or specific groups of impacted people but only do it when you know exactly where your contributions are going.
During the next few weeks, stay alert to more types of scams including phishing emails or robocalls. If you are unsure if something is a scam, just stay away from it or do enough research to know that the information is from a legitimate source. If you have friends or family members that may be more susceptible to these kinds of scams, such as older Americans, talk to them about what they should look out for.
For more information on scams related to COVID-19, check out these valuable resources:
What the FTC is Doing: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing
Specific Websites and E-mails:
Department of Justice Report on COVID-19 Related Fraud: https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus