As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic continues to impact the United States, scammers have taken advantage of the situation for their personal gain. A USA Today report suggests that as many as ten different COVID -19 Scams are spreading right now and many people are falling for them. Experts believe that the scams, in the form of texts, robocalls, emails, and websites will cost Americans over $20 billion dollars before this crisis is over.
The following are five of these scams as well as advice as to how to avoid them.
Text message scams, some of which are impersonating government agencies, may falsely advertise a cure or an offer to be tested for coronavirus. One such scam is a text from individuals claiming to be from the “FCC Financial Care Center” and are offering $30,000 in COVID-19 relief. The FCC warns that there is no program to provide relief funds to consumers.
Another popular text scam impersonates the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and informs recipients that they must take a “mandatory online COVID-19 test” using a provided link. These links often lead to forms which require one to input personal and financial information.
If you receive any text message referencing COVID-19, do not open the text massage and, most importantly, do not click on links in texts related to the virus. If you are unsure whether the text message is legitimate, go to cdc.gov/coronavirus for the most current information.
Robocalls are also popular among scammers who use the calls to target consumers during this crisis.
For example, many reports have been received about robocalls offering free virus test kits. Many of these calls target higher risk individuals and, of course, lead to requesting personal and health insurance information as well as asking for payment over the phone.
Other robocalls purport to be from the World Health Organization or the U.S. Department of Health and warn of “an outbreak in your area.” This call strongly recommends getting a vaccine and offers to connect you to a “health advisor.”
The World Health Organization advises that these calls should not be answered or one should not remain on the line. Additionally, according to the U.S. Department of Health, a government agency will not use this method to contact citizens.
Blood and Saliva from “COVID Survivors”
Many scammers are preying on people desperate for immunity to the virus by offering blood and saliva samples from “COVID Survivors” as a way to boost one’s immunity to the virus. The criminals allege that ingesting or injecting the fluids into your system will bolster your body against COVID.
The U.S. Department of Health warns that this is a hoax and that, obviously, you should never ingest or inject someone else’s bodily fluids into your own body as the fluids can be tainted with diseases.
Fake Miracle Cures
With the reports of increased COVID cases and deaths throughout the United States, it is tempting to search for a “miracle cure” or vaccine. Criminals are well aware of this temptation and are falsely advertising that they secretly obtained the cure from “big pharma” or created the vaccine themselves.
Officials advise that neither a cure or vaccine have been developed to date and that falling for these scams can be life threatening.
Tech Support Scams
Many of us are working from home due to the pandemic and most of us have likely experienced tech problems. Many scammers have taken advantage of this and create “tech support” websites hoping people will call for help. These crooks will then ask to gain access into your device and once there, they can access your personal information and commandeer your network.
Experts recommend that you do not search for a company’s tech support line. Instead, go to the company’s official website and obtain the tech support number from there.
The FCC offers the following tips to help you protect yourself from scams, specifically coronavirus scams:
- Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
- Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
- Be cautious if you are being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
- Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering or responding. Remember that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money.
- Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren’t hacked.
If you believe you have been scammed, you can file a complaint at fcc.gov/complaints.