COVID-19 Scams: Multiple Scams and Vectors

As we discussed last week, today’s environment is ripe for COVID-related scams. People are worried about the virus and their bills, making them an easy target for scammers. Today, we’ll cover some of the most popular scams related to COVID-19.

Government Assistance

Congress recently passed the CARES Act, which includes a stimulus payment. Many are curious if they qualify for the payment and how and when they will receive it. Scammers may send email or texts that promise to help you get your check if you pay a fee or “verify” your social security number or banking information.

The Small Business Administration (SBA) has a loan program called the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) in place to help small businesses. Scammers are pretending to be affiliated with the program to steal money or pry sensitive information from small business owners.

Neither the IRS nor SBA will contact you asking for personal or financial information. If someone does, it’s a scam. To find out the status of your stimulus payment, go to https://www.irs.gov/coronavirus/economic-impact-payments. For information about the PPP, visit sba.gov/coronavirus.

Testing and Treatment

As the virus continues to spread, we are thinking about testing and treatment: how to get a test, what treatments are most effective, etc. Scammers are attempting to capitalize on these concerns by selling bogus test kits via email, text, phone calls and robocalls. There are two approaches to test kit scams: some aim to steal your money, by charging you for a test. Others attempt to steal your health insurance information (in exchange for a “free” test) to use in future fraud. There have even been reports of scammers going door-to-door with fake testing kits.

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Other malicious actors are selling miracle “cures.” A licensed physician was charged with mail fraud for sending mailers promoting “COVID-19 treatment packs.” Social media platforms like Instagram have also been flooded with ads for drugs, clinical trials, and supplements. As tempting as these ads may be, remember that no cure exists for COVID-19 and, when one becomes available, it will not be sold through social media ads.

Charity

Scammers may pose as a charity in an attempt to play on your sympathies and steal your money. They may create a lookalike website that mirrors a real charity or create a fake charity purporting to help COVID-19 victims. Scammers may also pose as individuals in need, perhaps with a sick relative or lost job.

Scammers are creative and opportunistic. To defeat them, we must stay cyber aware. Check back next week to see our recommendations for protecting yourself from COVID-19 scams.

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