Scammers often capitalize on fear, and the coronavirus outbreak is no exception. In fact, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are warning against a surge in coronavirus scams that can be difficult to spot.
How the scams play out
Here are some of the most prevalent coronavirus scams:
The fake funding scam. In this scam, victims receive bogus emails, text messages or social media posts asking them to donate to a research team on the verge of a drug and/or vaccine for COVID-19. Unfortunately, any money donated to these “funds” will go to scammers.
The bogus health agency. Scammers send alerts appearing to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the WHO; however, they’re created by scammers. These emails sport the logo of the agencies that allegedly sent them, and the URL is similar to those of the agencies as well.
Victims believe these missives are sent by legitimate agencies. While some of these emails provide useful information, they often also spread misinformation. Even worse, they infect the victims’ computers with malware.
The phony purchase order. Scammers hack the computer systems at medical treatment centers to obtain information about outstanding orders for face masks and other supplies. The scammers then send the buyer a phony purchase order listing the requested supplies and demanding payment. The buyer wires payment directly into the scammer’s account.
Keep the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer current and strengthen the security settings on your devices.
Practice responsible internet usage. Never download attachments from unknown sources or click on links embedded in an email from an unknown sender. Don’t share sensitive information online either. To verify a site’s authenticity, check the URL and look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http.”
Finally, it’s a good idea to stay updated on the latest news about the coronavirus to avoid falling prey to misinformation.
Spotting the scams
Scammers give themselves away when they ask for payment via specific means, including wire transfer or prepaid gift card. Another giveaway is poor writing skills and misspelled words. “Breaking information” alerts allegedly sent by health agencies are another sign of a scam.
We're hearing of an increase in fraudulent emails related to COVID-19 as scammers and con artists try to capitalize on the situation. We'd like to remind members to be wary of any unusual email messages or telephone calls. You can find more tips to avoid fraud on our Security Center page.