COVID-19 Scams - What You Need to Know
A time of crisis can bring out the best of humanity. Unfortunately, it can also bring out the worst—scammers and con-artists.
While most of the world is pulling together to protect our vulnerable citizens, swindlers are finding opportunities amid the disruption to exploit people through a variety of deceitful tactics.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports “scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus.”1 Combining fear with false claims (that often appear to be reputable) these scammers are using the fog of the global health crisis to perpetrate cybercrimes that may ultimately separate people from their money.
At a time when people need to keep themselves, their families, and their finances safe—what can we do to protect our digital health against coronavirus?
1. Be especially wary of phishing emails related to “cures”
While sheltering in place helps to prevent the spread of the virus, it also makes us particularly reliant on the internet and digital forms of communication. Knowing this, a variety of internet-based scams have deployed sophisticated and far-reaching tactics via email and through fake websites, with Infosecurity Magazine reporting a 667% increase in phishing scams in less than a month.2 Be especially wary of any emails claiming to sell “cures” for the virus or emails appearing like shipment notifications.
2. Be very suspicious of any uninitiated contact related to your federal check
Now that there is a federal economic relief plan in place to provide qualifying citizens with government funds, consumers are fielding contact from scammers with empty promises of being able to secure their check faster.3 As displayed on the IRS.gov website, federal checks will be processed based on your previous tax filings, so no additional action is required.4 Do not give anyone your bank account information and do not send anyone money through PayPal or other online financial systems who are promising you faster access to your federal funds.
3. When in doubt, take steps to determine reputability
Many people are dealing with unemployment claims right now, which is only handled through each individual state.5 Be wary of any person contacting you about the status of your unemployment claim and when in doubt, find a reputable phone number and inquire before offering any personal information like your social security number or home address. Similarly, do not click links of websites claiming to help you secure your unemployment insurance money. Instead, find a phone number and call them.
Becoming a victim of identity theft and falling prey to a coronavirus scam is the last thing anyone wants to be worried about during this unprecedented time. By remaining especially vigilant to what you’re clicking on and who you are giving your information to, you can help make sure scammers don’t capitalize on your financial health while the world is focused on protecting its physical health.
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1Federal Trade Commission. “Consumer Information
2Barracuda Network Research. “Baracuda Sentinel.” March 2020.
3USA Today. “Coronavirus stimulus check scams are out to swindle you out of $1,200: What you need to know.” March 2020.
4Internal Revenue Service. “Get Coronavirus Tax Relief.” March 2020.
5National Public Radio. “Lost Work Because of Coronavirus? How to Get Unemployment, Skip Payments and More.” March 2020.