While the world attempts to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, people are trying to find trustworthy information about the virus in terms of the spread, protecting themselves, obtaining a tested, and more. The FBI has reported a rise in fraud schemes related to the virus. Sadly, fraudsters are using the situation to take advantage of people during these uncertain times. A lot of COVID-19 related scams involve companies and/or individuals trying to sell products with claims of preventing or curing the virus, but there is no available cure currently.
Phishing schemes, designed to deceive you into giving out your personal info, have become extremely sophisticated. Sometimes they can even include elements like official imagery or email addresses to appear similar to the actual email addresses used by official businesses. In addition, phone calls and texts from scammers pretending to be official businesses may use information such as your name or telephone number in their attempt in convincing you that they are legitimate.
To spot COVID-19 email and text scams, look for generic greetings (like “Hello, Sir/Madame”), requests for confirmation of personal information, or emails related to updating your billing details to judge whether or not an email from a company is legitimate. If a message’s language seems urgent, as though it’s attempting to pressure you into giving up your information to avert some sort of data disaster, it could very well be fake. If you receive a suspicious email from a particular company or even a friend or your employer, contact them separately via phone to verify the message before replying or otherwise acting on it.
Some of the scams seen thus far include:
· Cellphone apps providing a COVID-19 tracking map. Running in the background of these apps is a customized version of SpyMax which allows control of your phone’s information. Information suggests as many as 30 of these fraudulent apps have been identified.
· Phishing emails and phone calls impersonating entities such as the World Health Organization and government authorities.
· Misinformation being sent via text, social media, and emails.
· Products claiming to be a vaccine or cure for COVID-19.
· Claims that you can reserve the COVID-19 vaccine and get ahead of others.
· Investment scams claiming COVID-19 has created financial opportunities.
· Shopping sites readily offering products you know are nearly impossible to get.
· Calls claiming to represent the federal government's proposed stimulus package.
· Persons in lab coats offering to perform COVID-19 testing door to door.
· The American Red Cross is not offering home tests.
· You do not need COVID-19 software to protect your computer from the virus.
· Don’t let anyone pressure you into making any decisions.
· Don’t click on internet sources you don’t know.
· Never respond to unsolicited emails, text messages, or social media messages from strangers. Immediately delete them.
· ALWAYS KEEP YOUR COMPUTER SECURITY (ANTI-VIRUS AND MALWARE) SOFTWARE UP TO DATE.
· If you plan to make any donations, be sure you know the charity and ensure your donation is going to the intended cause.
· Be sure to visit the FTC's website to stay updated on the latest scams.