Beware of COVID-19 Scams:
DO NOT AUTOMATICALLY CLICK THAT LINK!
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak, internet scams are increasing exponentially, with online crooks and con-artists seeking to lure unwary victims by posing as government agencies, non-profit organizations, businesses, and even friends or associates.
As NBC reports, with confusion rife about relief checks that are soon going to be distributed by the U.S. government, some of the most prominent scams are emails, texts and social media posts saying your check is ready, pending your okay. You’re asked to just click the link.
Warning: DO NOT CLICK THAT LINK!
The FBI is warning that “fraudsters will take advantage of any opportunity to steal your money, personal information, or both. Right now, they are using the uncertainty surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic to further their efforts.”
Similarly, the Justice Department cautions that criminals are attempting to exploit COVID-19 worldwide through a variety of scams. There have been reports of:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
More than 14,000 coronavirus-related complaints have been received by the Federal Trade Association, totaling over $10 million in losses since the beginning of the year.
The FTC warns: “While some of you are home, practicing social distancing and frequent hand washing to avoid the Coronavirus, remember that scammers are still busy trying to take advantage of people. Some scammers are pretending to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and trying to get your Social Security number or your money.”
According to the Wall Street Journal other scams include fraudulent airline refunds, charities, fines for breaking social-distancing rules, “mandatory” Covid-19 preparedness tests, unproven treatments and sales of in-demand supplies like masks or thermometers. Experts say the scams are designed to get you to take immediate action, more and more through texts and calls.
“The stress people are under during the pandemic opens up whole new emotional avenues for attackers to prey on,” Chris Rothe, co-founder of security-threat-response firm Red Canary, said.
Typically, older adults are targeted by scammers because they often have more wealth. But recent research by AARP as reported by the Journal shows that all age groups are vulnerable to phishing attempts. That’s because shelter-in-place rules are keeping more people at home, where they are more likely to pay attention to urgent messages.
“We’re a captive audience at home. I find myself picking up my phone more often. We’re all in this high-emotion state.…I think maybe it’s a family member or a neighbor that needs help,” said Amy Nofziger, director of AARP’s Fraud Watch Network.