COVID-19 fraud scams are sweeping the nation via robocalls, texts, emails, and imposter schemes. As of April 28, 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported 27,820 consumer complaints related just to the virus outbreak, including 15,000 complaints about fraud. (Victims reported losing a median of $541, or a total of $20.4 million.)
Fraudsters have ramped up their attempts to reach out and defraud by using the news headlines to prey upon their victims’ fears of healthcare and economic concerns. Many of the scams reported involve:
- Fake COVID-19 testing sites (Use only approved testing sites affiliated with trusted hospitals and stay away from any sites that advertise “free to Medicare beneficiaries.”)
- High demand products like surgical masks, antibacterial gel, or test kits (Fraudsters will offer you a deal, then take your money, but they won’t deliver the product you ordered.)
- “Too good to be true” COVID cures (No cure exists as of now, so beware of phony remedies. When there is a cure, you’ll hear about it from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO).)
- Speedy economic-impact payments (Don’t exchange your checking account information or Social Security number for the promise of a faster stimulus check.)
- Quick capital (Look out for impersonators who pose as lenders offering to help you with your bills, your credit card debt, or student loans.)
- Investment recommendations for products that will prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19. (If you buy now, you may be sorry later.)
- Fake websites (Domain names containing the terms “coronavirus” or “Covid-19” claiming they represent government agencies or humanitarian organizations could inject malware on your computer.)
- Emails from purported government or humanitarian organizations (They’re not who they say they are and if you click on any links, you can count on downloading a virus that could infect your computer.)
The best way to avoid falling victim to COVID-19 scams is to follow this advice from the FTC, Federal Communications Commission, and the Securities and Exchange Commission:
- Avoid online offers for coronavirus-related vaccines or cures; they aren’t legitimate.
- Don’t click on links or download files from unexpected emails, even if the email address looks like a company or person you recognize. The same thing goes for text messages and unfamiliar websites.
- Don’t share personal information such as Social Security, Medicare and credit card numbers in response to an unsolicited call, text or email.
- Be wary of fundraising calls or emails seeking money for coronavirus victims or disease research, especially if they pressure you to act fast and request payment by prepaid debit cards or gift cards.
- Ignore phone calls or emails from strangers urging you to invest in a hot new coronavirus stock.
Today’s Fraud of the Day comes from an article, “Coronavirus Scams Spread as Fraudsters Follow the Headlines,” posted on AARP.org on April 28, 2020.
As of April 27, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged 27,820 consumer complaints related to the outbreak, including nearly 15,000 fraud complaints. Victims have reported losing $20.4 million, with a median loss of $541.
Fraudsters are using the full suite of scam tools – phishing emails and texts, robocalls, impostor schemes and more – and closely following the headlines, adapting their messages and tactics as new medical and economic concerns arise. For example, as coronavirus testing has ramped up in recent weeks, fake testing sites popped up in several states.