In a time of worldwide crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, some unsavory people have used this opportunity to take advantage of unsuspecting people and scam them out of money or personal information. There are many scams out there right now trying to play on peoples’ fears over the current crisis. It’s unfortunate, but in these times you need to keep your guard up and be aware of how these malicious actors are targeting individuals and businesses.
Selling Fake Protective Kits
One of the more dangerous and reprehensible scams coming out are fake protective kits. Someone will typically email or call with the promise to give you the best kits available that will come with masks, gloves, and sanitizing agents.
They ask you to pay over the phone and read them your card information as a ploy to steal your payment information. They’ll promise you will receive your kit as soon as possible, but they will never send one at all in the first place.
It can happen on sketchy websites or over the phone, but try and only use major retailers for these purchases such as Amazon or Walmart. If you go this route, make sure you are using the correct website and not a spoofed or fake website designed to look like a major retailer. When following any link, always check the address bar to confirm you are on the correct website and that it is secured with SSL.
Scams Targeting Small Businesses
The Small Business Administration (SBA) is a government agency who deals with all affairs regarding small businesses in the United States.
They recently have notified businesses and entrepreneurs of red flags to watch out for regarding the possibility of fraud.
One thing to keep in mind is that individual businesses will not be proactively contacted by the SBA regarding 7(a) loans, grants, or disaster loans. You must apply with the SBA.
If someone contacts you concerning these issues, ignore it and report them since it is not likely they will contact small businesses at this time regarding these types of loans or grants. If anyone is asking for payment up front, it is most certainly a scam as well.
Some callers also may claim they are public health representatives with insurance companies or government agencies asking for personal or company information.
Do not give it to them.
Any emails or phone calls regarding this are almost always a fraud, and be extra cautious when giving out any personal information such as banking information or your SSN.
Emergency Funding Scams
Many small businesses are getting stimulus checks as a part of the government’s $2 trillion initiative to aid the economy. This of course means more opportunities for people to try and scam you.
Thieves may call pretending to represent the government to request information from you. They should not be contacting you specifically regarding any issues involving the stimulus check.
Another major concern is email scams. Throughout the next few months, there will be various email scams with a “click here!” link, telling you that this link is how you get access to the money you have been promised, and this is another way people are trying to download malicious software onto your computer and get any and all information you may have on your devices.
COVID-19 Testing Scams
Some scams have been about Medicare and the ability to get COVID-19 test results done fast and free. While testing is free, there is no reason for these scammers to come to you saying they will do your testing for free, especially if they care asking for any type of bank information or insurance information. If you have concerns about potentially testing positive, go to your doctor immediately and stay away from others for at least 2 weeks.
Covid Cure scams
Some claim to even have a cure for COVID-19, and this is simply not true. As of right now, there is no vaccine or cure, so these websites are there to trick you into thinking they have the one tool in keeping you safe. They play off the emotions of the American people and convince them that the cure is there, but no one wants to give it out except them.
They will email you a link saying they have a cure, but this is another way for them to get your bank account information and hack you, potentially taking money. Do not give out this personal information as it can cause fraud. There are also emails going around saying certain businesses such as Netflix are giving out their subscriptions for free, when this is not the case.
Many scammers have turned to preying on people who are jobless or furloughed during this time, and they will contact these people telling them they have a job available.
If this contact is not a job you have already applied for, chances are this is a scam. Sometimes they will even ask you to “pay a small fee” in exchange for work, and this is most certainly a scam.
If anyone contacts you asking for your bank information, be weary in that this may be a scam. Use caution when answering calls you may not know, and wait for it to go to voicemail.
If it is a legitimate call, there is no concern, but if it is an automated system telling you there is a way you could make more money from home or that they need you to call back with your account information, it is fraud. Be cautious and stay safe!
Free Software Scams
There have been reports of people receiving email with offers for free products or services. They typically say something like “Netflix gives all subscribers free Netflix due to COVID-19.”
These emails are typically fraudulent and they want you to click links in the article and that will end up installing viruses onto your computer.
Only download software from reputable companies using their official sources.
One website program called the “Coronavirus Finder” says they will tell you how many people have been affected by COVID-19 in your area in exchange for a fee. This is a scam as well, where they get you to pay for their services that you could either find out on your own or are completely inaccurate anyway.
The website is geared towards people who live in bigger cities and want to know how many people near them have this flu-like illness, but it is a trick to get you to give them your credit or debit card information. They will not even charge you for the information they promised to give, they just wanted your credit card information and will do what they want with it.
How Bad Is It?
From January 1st, 2020 to April 13th, 2020, there have been 17,425 reported cases of fraud in the United States. Every state in the country has been affected somehow and this shows that there has not been enough coverage from the media on how to protect yourself from bank fraud.
Scammers can approach you in many ways, by phone calls, email, text messages, websites, and more. Fraud has been committed in every single state, and no one is completely safe from receiving these phone calls and the like.
What is the Government Doing About These Scams?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has come out saying that there have been numerous reports of scams happening in other ways, as well. Some calls and texts have been regarding health care funds, and these scams are promising to give free health care and assistance in paying for health care.
If any of these calls are automated or are asking for you to call a different number and give your bank account information, they are fake and should be ignored or reported to the FCC, who is handling all affairs regarding text message hoaxes. Some scams even promise to give up to $30,000 in relief funds to each person, and this is not the case.
In the United States, there is a relief fund where a single person who is not a dependent and makes less than a certain amount will receive $1,200, nowhere near the $30,000 that some scams are promising. The World Health Organization (WHO), has also warned about fraud ploys similar to this one.
Thankfully, the government is aware that scams are happening all over the country right now and have already managed to jail some people, such as Christopher Parris who attempted to scam millions of dollars from the department of veterans affair by promising to sell them masks and respirators he didn’t have access to.
The US Attorney’s Office has been on top of fraud cases in the United States and will try and catch every individual doing this.