The coronavirus pandemic has been raging on American shores for months, but scammers are still finding new ways to con people out of their money.
The latest in a string of coronavirus scams involves a simple text message with criminal intent.
Here’s all you need to know about this new coronavirus text scam.
The scam starts out with the victim receiving an alarming text message informing them that someone they’ve recently been in contact with is infected with COVID-19. They are then told to self-quarantine and to get tested for the virus.
The text also includes a link for the recipient to click for more information.
Many unsuspecting people who read these messages innocently click on the link, which provides the scammer with access to the victim’s device. The scammer can then scrape the victim’s personal information off the phone and use it to empty the victim’s accounts, open lines of credit in their name or even steal their identity.
If you receive a text message like the one described above, do not respond or click on any embedded links. Report the text to local law enforcement agencies, place the number associated with the message on your phone’s “block number” list and delete the message.
4 More COVID-19 Scams to Know About
It’s not just the text messaging scam that’s going around these days. Here are several more you should be aware of:
- Phishing emails from the “World Health Organization” (WHO).Scammers are sending out emails which appear to be from the WHO, but are really an attempt to get you to share personal information. The World Health Organization will not ask you for personal information.
2. Fake charities. Everyone wants to help those stricken by the virus, but be sure to check out the authenticity of a charity before making your donation.
3. Malicious websites. Scammers have set up websites full of information on COVID-19 with the intention of gaining access to your device. Don’t download any links or open attachments from non-reputable sources.
4. Fake funding scams. Criminals invent a “research team” supposedly on the verge of discovering a cure for COVID-19 — they just need your donation. Of course, all funds donated to this alleged team will go directly into the scammers’ pockets. Only donate to verified causes.
Beware of the COVID-19 Cure Scams
In addition to the scams above, the FBI is warning of a surge in COVID-19 cure scams in which criminals peddle an alleged vaccine or treatment for coronavirus. Scammers are also claiming they can disinfect a home and all surfaces against the lingering virus after a family member was infected.
Here’s what you need to know about these scams:
There are several variations of coronavirus cure scams, most of which profit off the fear and panic of those who are already infected by COVID-19 and people who are fearful of contracting the virus.
One such scam involves a bogus website allegedly selling a vaccine against the novel coronavirus. In one instance, a federal court ordered the shutdown of “CornavirusMedicalKit.com.” The site offered visitors a vaccine kit to protect against the coronavirus for just a nominal shipping fee of $4.95.
“In fact, there are currently no legitimate COVID-19 vaccines and the WHO (World Health Organization) is not distributing any such vaccine,” the Justice Department said about the website.
In another scam, victims receive a phone call in which a recorded voice offers to send them a free testing kit for the coronavirus. The victim need only pay the shipping charges for these testing kits — which, of course, are worthless. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released several samples of these calls to raise awareness and alert the public about their circulation.
In yet another scam, bogus cleaning agencies advertise about their disinfecting and sanitizing services, claiming they can eradicate the virus from patients’ homes.
“For only $79, our highly trained technicians will do a full air duct cleaning and sanitation to make sure that the air you breathe is free of bacteria,” a voice on one of these calls says.
Unfortunately, after making a payment for the service, the victim will never hear from the agency again. In another variation, the “cleaning agency” will show up at the victim’s home, and perform a rudimentary cleaning that will do little to disinfect against a lingering virus.
How to Spot These Scams
The coronavirus cure scams are fairly easy to spot. With just a bit of awareness and the knowledge of some basic information about COVID-19, you can recognize a scam and keep yourself safe from being victimized.
First, as mentioned, there is currently no approved vaccine or cure for the novel coronavirus. When a vaccine and cure do become available, it will likely make national headlines. You won’t first hear of it through a robocall. If a company reaches out to you trying to sell you a vaccine or cure, you’re likely looking at a scam. Hang up and don’t engage further.
Similarly, there are no FDA-approved at-home tests for the coronavirus available for the public. If a company tries to sell you one, it is likely a bogus test that won’t tell you if you’re actually infected by the virus or not.
Finally, if you or a member of your family has tested positive for COVID-19 and you’d like to sanitize your home from all traces of the virus, there’s no need to call a cleaning agency. You can do it yourself by following the CDC’s guidelines for disinfecting your home and all surfaces from the virus.
How to Protect Yourself Against Fraud and ID Theft
This coming Wednesday, May 6, join Certified Financial Counselor Emmanuel Obe for a webinar to learn more about protecting yourself against fraud and identity theft. The webinar is available at 10 a.m. and 2:30 p.m.
Don’t let the pervading fear and uncertainty of the coronavirus pandemic get your guard down. Arm yourself with the information you need to recognize potential coronavirus scams, and keep yourself aware and alert at all times.
People Helping People
CommonWealth One is here for you.