Beware Coronavirus Scams
As the coronavirus pandemic continues to sweep across the planet, the local shelter-in-place orders are keeping almost everyone at home and looking for reassurance. Unfortunately, scammers have recognized an opportunity to rob innocent victims of their money while giving them false hope for defeating the virus. The FBI is warning of a surge in coronavirus-related scams in which criminals peddle tests, cures, and more.
“The last thing the American people need, in the middle of this pandemic, is criminals trying to take advantage of them and profit off their concerns,” FBI Director Chris Wray said.
Here’s all you need to know about these scams.
Cure and Testing Scams
There are several variations of coronavirus cure scams. One such scam involves a bogus website allegedly selling a vaccine against the novel coronavirus.
During the last weekend of March 2020, a federal court ordered the shutdown of a website, “CornavirusMedicalKit.com.” The spam site offered visitors a vaccine kit to protect against the coronavirus for just a nominal shipping fee of $4.95.
“In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO (World Health Organization) is not distributing any such vaccine,” the Justice Department said.
In another scam, victims receive a phone call in which a recorded voice offers to send a free testing kit for the coronavirus. The victims need only pay the shipping charges for these testing kits — which, of course, are worthless.
As part of the government’s efforts to help avoid a recession, the Federal tax deadline has been pushed back until July 15. The California State tax deadline quickly followed suit. In addition, the Senate and the White House have signed a historic $2 trillion stimulus plan to help mitigate the economic fallout of COVID-19, giving U.S. Citizens some relief from financial hardship. Scammers have started to take advantage of this news by calling, texting, emailing, and otherwise contacting people about stimulus checks and payments. Some ask people to verify their banking or social security information so that they might receive a payment on time, and others promise to get them a larger amount of money if they allow the scammers to accept the payment on their behalf. In either case, taxpayers are liable to lose money and more if they fall for these scams.
In yet another scam, bogus cleaning agencies advertise their sanitizing services, claiming they can eradicate the virus from patients’ homes. Unfortunately, after making a payment for the service, the victim never hears from the agency again. In another variation of the scam, the “cleaning agency” shows up at the victim’s home, and performs only a rudimentary cleaning using a solution of ordinary soap and water.
Other scammers are offering to sell cleaning supplies and household goods directly to the victim. Hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and facemasks have been virtually wiped off of store shelves, and cleaning supplies such as bleach are not far behind. Scammers pretend to have these kinds of items for sale and reach out to victims in the hopes that they fall for the scam. Anyone who pays for these items either gets nothing in return for their money or they are sent cheap knock-offs.
Netflix and Other Online Services Scams
Taking advantage of the number of people using internet, streaming services, and other online-based businesses while stuck at home, scammers have been impersonating support professionals to gain access to your information and finances.
In one example, criminals pretend to represent Netflix. They reach out to people and tell them that their payment has failed, and that their account will be shut down if they do not pay within 24 hours. The scammers also provide a link where people can make payments. Of course, these links do not connect to the real Netflix, but to a scam site.
Another example is the Apple support scam, where hackers spoof Apple’s support number and call iPhone users to offer them technical support. The scammer will tell the victim they’re calling about a data breach that needs immediate attention. They’ll claim the victim’s Apple iCloud account is compromised, hacked, or has been showing suspicious activity. To fix the problem, they’ll say they need access to the victim’s device. They’ll go on to ask for the Apple user’s login credentials, passwords, and other sensitive data. Their ultimate goal is to gain access to the victim’s iCloud account.
10 Ways to Protect Yourself From Scams
Keep yourself safe by following these rules:
- Never share personal information online.
- Don’t open unsolicited emails. If you already have, don’t click on any embedded links. Do the same with unsolicited text messages.
- Never send money by insecure means to an unknown party.
- Protect your devices by using the most up-to-date operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication, and using strong, unique passwords for every account.
- Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts.
- Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams and learn how to protect yourself.
- Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy.
- If you have elderly relatives who spend time online, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves.
- Don’t take the identity of callers at face value, even if your Caller ID verifies their story. If a government agency, utility company, or financial institution reaches out to you and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own and then end the call.
- Never accept a job or agree to pay for a purchase or service without thoroughly researching the company involved.
Remember that you can feel secure using Bay Federal Visa credit cards to pay for your online purchases. With fraud protection, encryption, and more, you can purchase with confidence.