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 hard to spot.
How the scams play out
Here are some of the most common 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 CDC or the WHO; they’re not. 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 messages are sent by legitimate agencies. While some of these emails provide useful information, they 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 steal information about outstanding orders for face masks or other supplies. Scammers will 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.
Never download attachments from unknown sources or click on links embedded in an email from a sender you don't know. Do not 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 is always a good idea to stay updated on the latest news about COVID-19 to avoid falling victim to false information.
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.