Fraudulent text messages and robocalls exploiting anxiety around the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic are proliferating. Below are examples of the vicious and dangerous schemes the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) reports:
- Text messages advertising fake cures or COVID-19 testing; clicking the links may install malware or link to phishing attempts to gain personal and payment information. (There’s nothing lower than scamming based on fears of illness or death.)
- Hoax text messages claiming to be from a neighbor, with misleading information on a non-existent government-ordered quarantine, or direction to stock up on supplies.
- Robocall scams purportedly from the World Health organizations or charity organizations, intending to steal money or sensitive personal information.
- A particularly nasty variant of a “free” COVID-19 test scam that targets individuals with diabetes, offering free testing and a free diabetes monitor. Instead, the scammers collect personal and health insurance information to make fraudulent healthcare claims. ([Preying on a high-risk group to prey on the healthcare system.)
- Robocalls making fake claims that HVAC duct cleaning will protect families from COVID-19.
- Calls and texts about government checks being issued to consumers – and asking to collect or verify personal and bank account information.
The FCC warns consumers:
- Never respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or that appear suspicious.
- Never share personal or financial information via email, text messages, or phone.
- Remember that government agencies will never call asking for personal information or money.
- Never click links in a text message. If a contact sends a text with a suspicious link, call to make sure they weren’t hacked.
- Always check on a charity (by calling or visiting its website) before donating.
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an announcement on the Federal Communications Commission website, “COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips,” updated March 26, 2020.
As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact the United States, phone scammers have seized the opportunity to prey on consumers.
The FCC has received reports of scam and hoax text message campaigns and scam robocalls offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance, and preying on virus-related fears.