Unfortunately, the pandemic has given scammers the opportunity to prey on people's fears and vulnerabilities during these difficult times. Scammers remain focused on taking advantage of the ongoing pandemic to steal from you and make a profit for themselves. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), they received nearly 2.1 million scam reports in 2020, costing consumers $3.3 billion from fraud, up from $1.1 billion in 2019.
Fraudsters are constantly developing new ways to deceive people. Their scams may be challenging to spot even by the most trained eye. They have become so innovative, sophisticated, and deceptive that it could be hard to distinguish what's real or fake. The best way to protect yourself against their scams is through awareness and education. The more you know about the various scams circulating and how to recognize them, the less likely you'll be to fall victim to their fraudulent schemes. We’ve put together a list to help you recognize the coronavirus-related scams in case you encounter one.
Now that a vaccine is available to help stop the spread of the coronavirus, vaccination scams have become a growing problem. With vaccinations in full swing, scammers offer to sell doses of the vaccine for a deposit or fee. The vaccine is provided by the federal government at no cost to all people living in America. It’s only made available at official, trusted distribution sites such as doctors’ offices, hospitals, pharmacies, or health clinics.
A contact tracer is responsible for contacting individuals who may have been exposed to the coronavirus. A legitimate contact tracer works for the state and county health departments. They will only contact you to discuss your test results or inform you that you have been exposed to the virus. If you receive a request for personal information, payments, or you're asked to open links and download information, it's most likely a scam.
Congress recently approved another round of Economic Impact Payments to assist eligible Americans during these difficult times. This is great for many people who need assistance, but it also presents stimulus check scam opportunities. Scammers are contacting victims through unsolicited calls, emails, or texts. They're pretending to be the IRS requesting your personal information and a processing fee for the stimulus check. The IRS will not contact you by phone, text, or email about your payment.
Be on the lookout for emails with instructions to download a link that contains malware that could infect your device. Do not click on links in the emails.
Scammers will go the extra length to set up fake testing sites with real tents, signs, and hazmat suits to convince you that it's a legitimate testing site. They take people's social security numbers, credit card information, and other personal information and use it to steal their identity. Before going to a testing site, get a referral from your doctor or local health department or contact your local police or sheriff's office for a legitimate testing site.
In times of a natural disaster or major tragedy, scammers will attempt to take advantage of people's generosity and willingness to support a good cause. Before donating to a cause, do your research and know the organization where you're donating. Please don't give money or personal information to an unknown caller or anyone requesting payment in cash, through money wire or transfer payment, gift card, or by mail.
Scammers use illegal robocalls to target their victims by pretending to be an official government agency, financial institution, or a family member in need. They may claim to offer bogus COVID-19 vaccinations, cleaning supplies, and work-at-home job opportunities.
If you receive a call from a familiar number or name and the first thing you hear is a pre-recorded sales pitch, hang up immediately. Don't follow the prompts or press a button to speak to someone because this could lead to more unwanted calls. If you’re constantly receiving unsolicited calls, you could register with the Do Not Call List to help block those unwanted calls from telemarketers and scammers.
As you protect yourself from the coronavirus through social distancing, wearing face masks, and washing your hands, be vigilant and protect yourself from scammers. Always be on the lookout for suspicious activity, demands, or requests, and stay informed of the latest scam developments.
If you suspect fraud or believe you've been the victim of identity theft, we're here to help. Contact us to report fraudulent activity. You can also file a complaint with the FTC at identitytheft.gov.