**READ FULL LIST OF CORONAVIRUS SCAMS ON OUR DEDICATED RESOURCE PAGE.**
Identity thieves are preying on the fears of individuals around the world as coverage regarding the coronavirus outbreak, or COVID-19, increases. Fraudsters are exploiting the opportunity to steal the Personally Identifiable Information (PII), financial information, and even medical information, of those looking for knowledge, protection, and treatment for the viral infection.
As easy as it can be to get swept up in the constant barrage of news, it is important to also stay on alert when it comes to protecting your identity and that of your family, as well as your financial well-being.
Stay Vigilant Against These Top COVID-19 Scams
Beware of the following scams designed to manipulate our fears in order to steal money, personal, and business information:
Fake Websites & Online Shopping Scams
Cyberthieves are creating websites that collect your personal information under the guise of providing you with important coronavirus updates. They have also set up donation and investment sites for victim care or emergency response plans that may seem legitimate but direct your money into the criminal’s pockets. Fraudulent e-commerce vendors are promoting the sale of protective face masks, sanitizers, test kits, and other high demand items — often collecting payment and credit card information without shipping the item.
**Update (August 10, 2020) Cyberthieves are taking a new twist to earlier COVID-19 scams that have been duping consumers for months. In addition to fake websites collecting personal information in exchange for “important Coronavirus updates,” they are also infusing new shopping scams, too. New tricks include online marketplaces that are selling gym equipment or small appliances at “too good to be true” prices in addition to those hard-to-find household items. Whichever way they can, scammers are ready to steal your money and your identity.
If you believe you have purchased a fake item or donated to a fake charity, report it to your credit card company immediately. If you’ve entered your medical information into a suspicious site, beware of medical identity theft and keep a close eye on all the explanation of benefits you receive to make sure they are legitimate.
Phishing and Vishing
As individuals and businesses attempt to keep up with the latest news, they may be more vulnerable to falling for fake coronavirus update emails, texts, and voicemails that include alerts. Be careful not to click on suspicious links as they may be riddled with malware. If phone calls request that you share any personal or medical information, just hang up — it’s likely a vishing scam. As employees frequently check for updates on work conditions, conference and event status, they may be tricked into clicking links that capture sensitive business and customer information. If phone calls request that you share any personal or medical information, just hang up.
Spoofed Government and Health Organization Communications
Scammers disguising themselves as government and health organizations such as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are contacting individuals by email, asking them to visit a “protected” site — requiring personal information to set up a user account — to view safety tips. Or, they are trying to trick recipients to open email attachments, or are redirecting them to spoofed (or fake) websites and asking for financial details to make donations.
**Update (March 16, 2020) On Sunday, March 15, 2020, cybercriminals hacked into The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) and posed as the nation’s system to send out text messages warning individuals of a national quarantine and lockdown. The National Security Council posted a Tweet the same day, confirming that the rumors spread by the text message were fake.
**Update (March 19, 2020) As the U.S. government considers a financial relief package for citizens, false claims of the government sending a $1000 relief check to individuals are already in the works by scammers who seem to be a step ahead of any official decision. Fraudsters are posing as the government to collect your personal information such as Social Security numbers or bank account numbers to send out your “coronavirus financial aid” deposit.
**Update (March 30, 2020) Now that the $1,200 stimulus check has been approved, reports of fraudulent calls, texts, and emails requesting your personal and financial information to sign up for the federal payment has increased. These phishing scams are collecting your PayPal account information, Social Security number, and bank account number to commit fraud or downloading malware into your devices if you click on a link. Taxpayers are expected to receive a check or direct deposit within the next three weeks or longer. No sign up is required and anyone offering to expedite this deposit is a scammer.
Checking for facts directly from the legitimate government organizations is always your best bet, and scam warnings related to coronavirus and others, are occurring regularly:
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) – https://www.cdc.gov/
- World Health Organization (WHO) – https://www.who.int/
- USA.gov – https://www.usa.gov/coronavirus/
- U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) – https://www.fda.gov/home
- Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/
- U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) – https://www.sec.gov/investor/alerts
Miracle Cures or Vaccines
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) jointly with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns that there are “no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges, or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus.” All medical advice and treatment should be directed by a medical professional. False miracle health claims are a rouse to collect your personal financial and medical details — information that can be used to commit medical identity theft.
**Update (March 19, 2020) Reports of phone calls, texts, and emails from the CDC offering a reservation for the coronavirus vaccine has caused police departments to warn individuals against the scam and to not to disclose payment information or Social Security numbers over the phone.
Scammers are marketing fraudulent coronavirus antibody tests and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) warns consumers they may not only be providing false results, they are also using the tests to collect personal and medical information. Beware of individuals offering “free” antibody tests or providing incentives for undergoing testing. Other signs of fake tests include promotion through social media ads, unexpected emails, or telephone calls posing as government officials requiring a test or requesting personal information to schedule a test. Testing is voluntary, says the FBI, so if you’re being coerced into taking a test you should be extremely cautious as it’s most likely someone trying to steal your PII.
Fake Job Postings
**Update (March 18, 2020) Beware of phony job postings designed to recruit individuals who are unemployed or forced to take time off from work during the COVID-19 outbreak. The jobs are created to trick job seekers into becoming money mules and are being posted by scammers who are posing as coronavirus relief charities. After applying for the job, the fake “non-profit” organization will ask the job seeker to process donations made to the charity into their own account and then to transfer the money into another account — all before the bank can alert the individual of the fraudulent check and deposit. Fake job postings not only collect personal information such as name, address, and Social Security number, but also personal financial account information.
Scammers are targeting seniors with phone call scams claiming to be fake charities, health organizations offering vaccines, or house cleaning services to help sanitize against the Coronavirus. Check-in with your elderly friends and neighbors, to warn them of the tricks scammers are using to steal Social Security checks, and other payments they may be expecting. Strangers may offer to run errands, and then take off with their money. Also, beware of online sellers who advertise hard-to-find cleaning or medical supplies at extreme markups that then never arrive, or say they can “reserve” a COVID-19 vaccine. Remind your loved ones that they should never give out personal, financial, or medical information over the phone (known as vishing scams.)
Not to be Confused for the Beer
Because of its name, people may believe the viral disease is spread by drinking the popular beer, Corona. “Coronavirus” is the layman’s term for COVID-19. Search trends are showing an uptick in searches for “corona beer virus.” Beware of emails or websites that attempt to link the two together, in a humorous or serious way, to get you to enter personal information to reveal more details, jokes, or images.
If you think you are a victim of identity theft, don’t hesitate to reach out to our team to learn more about how we can help protect all that you’ve built.