Coronavirus Scams: How to Spot Them and Avoid Them
While the general public may see global panic as a time to show more compassion, scammers unfortunately use times like this to prey on the most vulnerable. Coronavirus scams are unfortunately becoming more and more prevalent with each day that this pandemic continues.
With so much to worry about already, the last thing any of us need right now is to have our personal information compromised as the result of a scam. By recognizing the signs of a coronavirus scam, you can protect yourself against them and focus on preserving your physical and mental health.
Email Phishing Scams
One of the most common types of coronavirus scams is email phishing. Scammers send emails that claim to offer more information about the coronavirus. These emails often include a link to an unsafe website and ask for consumers’ personal information. The email or site may entice consumers to enter their information by claiming consumers can download resources about the coronavirus. Downloads may also contain malware that can allow scammers access to consumers’ bank accounts or credit cards. Some scammers have even sent emails impersonating the WHO. When receiving any emails, be sure to verify the sender before opening. Once open, examine links carefully before clicking on them. Safe sites will begin with “https” rather than “http.” And finally, don’t enter any personal information into a site that you don’t trust.
Fake Charitable Causes
Some scammers try to tug at the heartstrings by promoting fake charities or crowdfunding sites. Some of these scams claim to be raising money to give a coronavirus vaccine to children in China. At this time, a coronavirus vaccine does not exist. However, this is just one example of a myriad of fake charitable causes seeking donations. If someone is pressuring you to donate over the phone or via email, they may not be from a reputable organization. Additionally, avoid giving donations via cash, gift cards or wired money. These types of requests often signify a scam because these methods of payment don’t have the protections that paying with a credit or debit card would.
Because products meant to prevent the spread of the coronavirus, such as face masks and hand sanitizer, have been flying off of grocery store shelves, scammers have been taking advantage. Scammers may send emails or place ads claiming to have such products in stock. They then take consumers’ money without delivering the product. Only place orders of these products from vendors you would typically trust with your information.
As the economy continues to suffer as a result of the coronavirus, debt scammers will continue to take advantage. Consumers looking to get out of debt quickly before the economy gets worse may be at risk. Scammers will use enticing language claiming they can get you out of debt for a specific portion of what you owe or in a defined time period. If an offer sounds too good to be true or too specific, it probably is. Reputable debt relief companies will have an actual address (rather than a PO box), and you’ll be able to reach a human being on the phone. Reputable companies also will not charge you before they do any work for you.
What to Do
If you suspect a scam related to the coronavirus, you can report it to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC, in conjunction with the FDA, has already issued warning letters to several companies selling fraudulent products related to the coronavirus. If you fear you have already fallen victim to a scam, consult the FTC on what steps to take next. If you used a credit card, contact your credit card company to see if you can stop the payment. Call your bank right away if it was your bank account that was compromised. If you gave away your Social Security Number, monitor your credit report. You may also want to consider a credit freeze with the three credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion).
At times like this, we are all particularly on edge and working hard to keep our physical and mental health intact. As a result, scammers are preying on the fact that we all may be too overwhelmed to spot fraud. However, keeping an eye out for these scams is an important part of keeping yourself safe and secure.
If you’re concerned about coronavirus scams or are struggling financially as a result of COVID-19, Tayne Law Group is here for you. Contact our financial professionals today.