According to the Federal Trade Commission, financial scams tied to COVID-19 are on the rise. Through June 4, the FTC has received nearly 36,000 complaints involving coronavirus-related fraud, with consumers losing more than $46 million so far.
Federal, state, and local authorities are warning the public to stay alert for efforts to trick them into providing sensitive information.
Here are some current schemes.
Posing as officials from in-the-news agencies such as the World Health Organization (WHO), scammers are soliciting cash donations they say will go toward fighting COVID-19. Some imposters purport to be IRS administrators gathering personal information they say is necessary to process their victims’ national economic stimulus payments. Pretending to work for legitimate federal government agencies, other bogus callers offer thousands of dollars in “COVID-19 relief” funds while deceitfully collecting bank account and social security numbers.
Unscrupulous callers are claiming to represent health department officials who warn of area coronavirus outbreaks and offer to sell in-home testing kits, cures, or preventative vaccines.
Targeting YOU at Home
Consumers report receiving fraudulent special offers via email or text for at-home entertainment services, such as several months of free Netflix service. Scam artists often ask for credit card or bank account information to maintain the account.
With growing numbers of employees working from home, crooks are working overtime to steal their personal information. Emails made to look as if they originate from HR departments convince workers to disclose personal information with instructions to complete “mandatory” payroll or benefits forms.
How to Protect Yourself
If you suspect that a coronavirus-related scam has targeted you, call your local police right away. In the meantime, authorities offer these suggestions for protecting yourself from COVID-19 scams.
- Never answer calls or texts from unknown telephone numbers or those that appear suspicious
- Refrain from sharing any personal or financial information online, via text, or over the phone
- If a caller tries to pressure you into sharing any information or make a payment, hang up immediately
- Scam artists often use look-alike phone numbers so you will answer their calls; remember that government agencies will never ask for personal information or money over the phone
- Never click links or open attachments in messages from someone you don’t know
- Check out any charity before making a financial donation with watchdog groups such as Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance or GuideStar
If an unsolicited phone call, text message, or email seems suspicious, or you feel a caller is pressuring you for a monetary donation, hang up and contact the police.