Coronavirus Scams

The world is facing a major health crisis with Coronavirus, and unfortunately, scammers are trying to capitalize on this. Here are a few scams to watch out for:

Fake Charities
Most people are looking for ways to help during a crisis like this. Scammers use the same events to take advantage of your generosity. Some scammers purport to be charities to help with relief efforts, provide testing and medical supplies or any number of services. Some even use names which sound very similar to the names of real charities. Make sure you do a little research before making any donations. Use these tips from the FTC to help you research charities. When you give, pay safely by credit card - never by gift card or wire transfer.

Phishing
Phishing is luring someone into providing personal/financial information to a scammer posing as a legitimate business. The scam involves a convincing message that would directly affect the reader. The message comes with a "bait" action of what-to-do to help resolve the issue. The success of these scams depend on the reader's initial response to the message and what their next step is, which is typically motivated by fear, uncertainty, and/or doubt. Phishing scams can be conducted through a variety of ways including email, phone call, text messages and even social media. Here's a real-world example of a scam where phishers pretend to be the World Health Organization (WHO), provided by FTC website.

A fake email has the logo of the World Health Organization on it. (Sophos Ltd.)

Downloading documents or files from this type of email can cause malware to be installed on your computer. The safest bet is to be suspicious of any unsolicited emails or texts received, and never click links provided in them. Instead, navigate directly to the trusted organizations website and search the information there. Also, make sure your computer and phone have up to date operating systems and security software.

Stimulus Checks
The CARES Act was recently signed into law to help Americans fight the fallout due to COVID-19. The Act provides for direct payments to many taxpayers. The Federal Trade Commission recently warned consumers that the government will never ask you to pay money upfront to receive the checks, or call you to ask for personal information like your Social Security number or bank account number, all of which are typically scams. You will either receive a direct deposit, or a check in the mail. The government will not send you the payment via Venmo or another app. Direct deposits are more secure than paper checks, so if you are relying on the latter, be vigilant about checking your mailbox. The best way to make sure you receive any direct payment you may qualify for as a result of this legislation is to be certain you have updated your direct deposit information with the IRS. Most people will do this when filing their 2019 tax returns.

With so much misinformation and so many scam artists waiting to take advantage of fear and confusion, it is smart to be skeptical of any information you see or receive these days. For information related to the Coronavirus, visit What the U.S. Government is Doing. There you'll find links to federal, state and local government agencies.


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