Fraudsters are finding ways to take advantage of fears related to the coronavirus. To help you protect yourself, the American Bankers Association (ABA) has gathered and shared the following comprehensive list of the most common scams in today’s environment.
Phishing and supply scams. Scammers are impersonating health organizations and businesses to collect personal and financial information or to sell fake test kits, supplies, vaccines or cures for COVID-19. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails, texts, phone calls and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with, and NEVER give your password, account number or PIN to anyone.
Stimulus check or economic relief scams. There are reports that the government will help to ease the economic impact of the virus by sending money by check or direct deposit. However, the government would never ask for a fee to receive the funds, nor would they ask for your personal or account information.
Charity scams. Fraudsters are seeking donations for illegitimate or non-existent organizations.
The ABA advises that nonprofits be researched before donations are made to them. Be especially wary of any business, charity or individual requesting COVID-19-related payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card or through the mail.
Delivery of malware through “virus-tracking apps” or sensationalized news reports. The ABA also suggests that you should ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure or treatment. Medical breakthroughs would never be reported through unsolicited emails or online ads.
Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. Be sure to turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download malware onto devices or route users to bogus websites. The ABA suggests that you should hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL you’d be routed to. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL. For example: www.ABC-Bank.com vs. ABC_Bank.com.
Change your security settings to enable multi-factor authentication for accounts that support it. Multi-factor authentication—or MFA—is a second step to verify who you are, like a text with a code.
Provider scams. Be vigilant and alert to scammers impersonating doctors and hospital staff. These scammers will often claim to have treated a relative or friend for COVID-19 and demand payment for treatment.
Bank/FDIC scams. Scammers are also impersonating FDIC or bank employees. They are falsely claiming that banks limit access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits. Remember that the safest place for your money is in the bank, because it’s physically secure and it’s federally insured. When you deposit your money at a bank, you get the comfort of knowing that your funds are secure and insured by the government. You don’t have the same level of protection when your money is outside the banking system.
Investment scams. Often styled as “research reports,” claiming that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19. Before you make any investments, remember that there is a high potential for fraud right now. You should be wary of any company claiming the ability to prevent, detect or cure coronavirus. For information on how to avoid investment fraud, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.
Rely on official sources for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and your state’s health department websites to keep track of the latest developments.
Help others by reporting coronavirus scams. Visit the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov to report suspected or confirmed scams. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest scams by visiting the FTC’s coronavirus page at ftc.gov/coronavirus.