Coronavirus Scams Still on the Rise

  • By Dawna M. Roberts
  • Oct 19, 2020

Since February, when the pandemic began, consumers have logged more than 205,000 complaints of fraud related to coronavirus with the FTC. Although the average loss was only around $300, that figure doubled for seniors (80+). According to CNBC, in total, Americans have lost about $145 million in COVID-19-related scams.

Because many consumers didn’t report the fraud, those figures are most likely much higher than reported.

Why These Scams Work

The entire nation is fearful about their health and that of their loved ones. Many people have lost jobs, and the financial burden of making a living is pressing down hard on them. New rules and procedures for running a business have drastically altered the workplace, adding to the already enormous stress and anxiety level. 

These scams work because they tap into people’s fear and offer quick solutions to some of these problems. Fraudsters ramped up their efforts to take advantage of these uncertain times. The FTC noted that scams jumped in April from 200 per day to 1000. Cybercriminals are not letting up anytime soon; therefore, citizens need to be informed and well-armed with knowledge of these scams and what to do about them. 

The Most Common Scams to Watch Out For

Although there are numerous scams already in play, some of the newest ones using COVID-19 as a hook are:

  • COVID 19 Cure or Test Kits - Various emails have been sent by fraudsters promising a COVID 19 cure, vaccination, or instant test kits. Be wary of these emails; they are fake.
  • Test Kit Ads - Most test kids being advertised have not even been approved by the fma and are not valid; they are sent by criminals trying to make a buck. 
  • Stimulus Checks - If you receive any email regarding stimulus or other government checks during COVID-19, these are scams. The government will not text, call, or email you about any checks.
  • Election Scams - Many Americans have received fake emails regarding their voting registration. When they click, they are taken to malicious websites where their personal information is stolen for identity theft.
  • Emails from the CDC - The CDC is not emailing the American public directly. These are scams meant to get you to click to infect your computer or steal your information. 
  • Contact Tracing - Amid the coronavirus pandemic; health representatives are using a technique to try and trace individuals who have come in contact with the virus. Scammers are impersonating contact tracing reps and asking for financial and other personal details. Contact tracing technicians will never ask you for anything other than basic health information. 

Some other prevalent scams that may have a COVID-19 tie-in to watch out for include:

  • Charity Scams - Be very careful if someone calls you on the phone to solicit for a charity. Do your homework first before giving out any bank account details, credit card information, or personal data. 
  • Robocalls - Watch out for robocalls regarding COVID-19 and any health-related questions or test results. Real physicians would not use a recording to contact you.
  • Insurance - Protect your insurance card information and never give it out to anyone who asks for it on the phone.
  • Social Media Scams - If you see ads on social media about health-related issues, always consult reputable websites for the real deal like the CDC, World Health Organization, FTC, and the Better Business Bureau. 
  • Text Messages - Hackers use various text messages these days to trick victims with exploits of the election, COVID-19, and other enticing grabs. 
  • Phishing Emails - Scammers have used phishing techniques for years. Do not ever click links in an email. You will either be taken to a fake website and asked for personal information, or your computer may be infected with malware or ransomware. Always visit websites by using your browser, not links.
  • Bank Scams - Criminals pretending to be from your bank who send you an email or a text and need you to “confirm your login details.”
  • Romance Scams - Unfortunately, during these desperate times, romance scams on also on the rise targeting lonely individuals looking for companionship. Never offer money or give out personal details to someone you have never met in person.
  • Work-from-Home Scams and Fake Job Offers - With so many people out of work, scammers are working overtime putting fake job offers out there and sending emails that you were “awarded” a job that you didn’t even apply for. Be careful if you get one of these, especially if they ask for personal details before you even speak with someone. 

How to Respond to Scams

If you are the victim of one of these scams, you should report it to the FCC using the form on their website. You may also contact your local police department and file a report. Some other ways to protect yourself are:

  • Never give out personal information to anyone when you did not initiate the contact.
  • Hang up the phone if you get spam calls.
  • Never click links in an email.
  • Keep all your devices updated with the latest software and antivirus/anti-malware.
  • Always research online and check out a company before you donate to charity or accept a job.  
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