A variety of new scams have emerged in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Americans are being advised to be wary and are encouraged to know the signs of fraud. It is also paramount that citizens report any fraud they suspect so that those responsible can be brought to justice.
Coronavirus scams have already cost Americans over $39 million dollars. Individuals who fall victim to a fraudster’s scheme lose about $470 dollars on average. (This is money people rely on to pay for groceries and electric bills.) These new schemes utilize modern technology to create scams through fraudulent emails, links, websites, and text messages.
One popular scam uses text and email links to redirect you to a fraudulent web page that mirrors the real IRS website. The website asks you to confirm your personally identifiable information so that you can receive your stimulus checks. (It requires you to provide your name, contact information and Social Security number.) By hijacking your personal information, fraudsters can gain access to financial accounts and steal your hard-earned money.
Robocalls also continue to be a popular method used by scammers to commit COVID-19 fraud. (Some scamming methods never go out of style.) The robocall will claim that you have been billed for a service that can no longer be provided due to coronavirus. It then asks for your credit card information under the guise of issuing a refund for the nonexistent charge. (What happened to the days of ‘Is your refrigerator running?’)
Many coronavirus related scams sound legitimate at first glance. It isn’t until it’s too late that you realize you’ve become a victim of fraud. The Federal Trade Commission has created a list of coronavirus scams and encourages the public to familiarize themselves with them as anyone is a potential target. (Not only the gullible fall victim to fraud. Have you heard that tech savvy millennials are the most likely to lose money to fraudsters?)
The IRS wants users to know that they will not ask you to confirm personal information through emails or texts. If you receive a text or email claiming to be from the IRS, it is most likely a phishing email. To ensure the legitimacy of a government website, type the URL in separately rather than clicking a provided link.
You can also protect yourself from robocalls by installing software or apps that screen and block unknown numbers and suspected scam calls. Most major service providers also provide software or apps that block spam texts from coming through.
If you suspect or fall victim to a coronavirus scam you should immediately report it to law enforcement. You can also report scams to the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Coronavirus scams have cost Americans $39 million so far—here’s how to protect yourself,” published by CNBC on May 25, 2020.
Nearly 52,500 Americans have already filed complaints this year with the Federal Trade Commission over fraud related to Covid-19, reporting losses totaling over $38.6 million. Of those submitting complaints through May 21, about 45% reported falling victim to fraudsters, losing about $470 on average.
Scammers are “ingeniously evil,” says Bill Versen, chief product officer for Transaction Network Services, a global provider of data communications that tracks robocalls. “They take topical current events and then weave that into their story to gain your confidence in order to defraud you,” he says. TNS has seen a big uptick in fraudsters leveraging Covid-19 related scams right now.