During these difficult times, fraudsters are relentless with their attempts to defraud individuals and organizations. In fact, the FTC has reported that Americans have lost nearly $12 million on coronavirus-related scams to date. The surge of teleworking has also increased vulnerabilities to corporate networks by hackers.
Common schemes you should be aware of are:
- Fake emails that appear to be from trusted entities such as the World Health Organization (WHO), the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the FBI, the US Postal service or other government agencies. These fake emails contain files with computer viruses or links that request your personal information so that the fraudsters can steal your identity. Anytime you receive an email with a link or file that you weren’t expecting, don’t click on it. Call the agency or check their website to ensure that the email is valid.
- Phishing, or the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers. In this case, the phishing emails contain links portraying to have advice from medical organizations, or files claiming to contain enticing information about the Coronavirus. Reputable companies will not call or email you unexpectedly and ask for personal or financial information.
- Scams promising a significant share of a large sum of money, in return for a small up-front payment. Lately, these have been targeting government financial support packages. You may receive messages by email, phone, text message or even what appears to be legitimate ads on some of your favorite websites. If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Websites selling fake vaccines, protective equipment and fraudulent remedies for the COVID-19 virus. Currently, there are no vaccines or remedies available and personal protective equipment is largely unavailable. Do not give any company your credit card information for these items.
- Solicitations seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations. The FTC offers great advice on how to ensure that you are only giving your hard earned money to the places that will benefit – and that you choose.
- Invitations that appear to be from communications platforms, such as Zoom or Microsoft Teams, by sending phishing emails with virus-infected files. Be very careful for fake names such as Zooom, Zoum or Micosoft. Carefully check that the invitation is real, especially if you weren’t expecting it.
If you think you’ve been sent something that involves a COVID-19 fraud scheme, contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline at 866.720.5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Please contact us if you are concerned that you may have fallen victim to a COVID-19 scam, so that we can assist you with protecting your accounts and identity.