COVID-19 Scams: Staying Safe
Along with massive day-to-day disruption for most of the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought with it a tidal wave of scams. As we saw last week, scammers are using government relief programs, testing and treatment concerns, and charity as vessels for their attacks. They are using email, text, and social media messages, phone calls, and even door-to-door visits to scam as many unsuspecting people as possible. It’s more important than ever to stay alert.
Evaluate the Request (Not the Offer!)
Most scams can be avoided using phishing recognition techniques. When you receive a message, ask yourself:
- Do you recognize the sender’s email address? Remember to look beyond the sender name field.
- Was it expected? Did you reach out to this specific person or organization for information on this specific topic? If not, consider it unexpected.
- What is being requested from you? Try not to focus on the offer itself (free testing, miracle cures, quick stimulus payments), but rather what you must provide to get the offer.
- Verify the offer. If the offer comes from a company, check their official website for details on the offer. Anytime a request involves money or sensitive information (personal, financial, login, etc.), independently verify.
It’s been a difficult time for everyone, but we cannot allow emotional distress to make us an easy target for pandemic fraud. Keep a level head as you are confronted with these scams. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it likely is!
Keep in mind that no government agency will contact you via email or phone to request sensitive information. If you receive a phone call or robocall about any relief, testing, or treatment, your safest bet is to hang up. If you are curious about a product or service, independently research it online and know that when an effective treatment or cure for COVID-19 is available, it will be widely publicized through official health organizations such as the CDC or WHO.
For a charity request, inquire about an Employer Identification Number (EIN). If no EIN exists for the organization, don’t donate. Even if they do provide an EIN, do not click any links in an unsolicited message or provide your financial information over the phone. Instead, find their official website through a web search and donate securely.
If you think you’ve been a victim of COVID-19 fraud, immediately report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Below are official government websites with updated information on COVID-19: