Scammers and the Coronavirus

Identity Protection
Scammers and the Coronavirus

Published: November, 2020

Coronavirus has shown us some of the best and worst in humanity. We have seen medical professionals, truck drivers, and other front line workers step up to the plate. They are putting in long hours, in sometimes thankless jobs, to ensure Americans can put food on the table and get required medical care. Unfortunately, we have also seen a rise in those who would take advantage of the situation. Scammers are actively working to obtain personal and financial access from those who are vulnerable and worried. These are often the same people who can ill-afford to lose money or security during trying times.

Types of Coronavirus Scams

Unfortunately, many different coronavirus scams are happening right now. Here are the common scams being reported at the moment:

  • Scams promising false cures. Many scams relate to "miracle" cures for coronavirus or offer the promise of products people order that never come. They often come in the form of teas, essential oils, and CBD products that offer no real medicinal value when it comes to coronavirus. They give people a false sense of security. Some are even offering fraudulent antibody tests to obtain health insurance information, which is then used for identity theft.
  • Stimulus checks scams. As people await news on continued government stimulus packages, scams rage on, including everything from stimulus check promises to unemployment benefits and more. Other financial scams involve student loan payments, stock scams, credit card fraud and more.
  • Robocall and text messaging scams. These include attempts to get targets to part with valuable personally-identifiable information. Such scams are primarily focused on those under financial stress or health concerns.
  • Contact tracing scams. We all know that contract tracing is an invaluable way to trace infected clusters and determine the origins of coronavirus cases. However, scammers use the guise of contact tracing to steal insurance information, bank account information, Social Security numbers and more.

Be suspicious if you encounter any of these potential issues. Do not give out personally-identifiable or financial information without first verifying the authenticity of the caller.

Signs of Being Scammed

The number one sign you are being scammed is an email, text message, or phone call that appears off or suspicious. Recognizing these queues can help you identify if someone is attempting to scam you.

You will need to do a little research before offering up your insurance, personal or financial information if you notice:

  • Callers are more interested in your health insurance information than the status of your health.
  • Scammers require upfront payment before providing information about things like stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, etc.
  • Non-legitimate charities are pressuring you into providing donations right away.
  • Fraudsters contact you through an email, phone call or text message claiming to be from the government.
  • Swindlers claiming to be contact tracers ask for any personal, financial or insurance information. They should only ask about health information.

These signs are not always indicators that you are being scammed, but they should make you think twice before sharing personal information.

Avoiding Coronavirus Scams

The best way to avoid coronavirus scams is to adopt an air of skepticism when you receive phone calls, emails, text messages or door-to-door visits. These other steps can help as well:

  • Ignore offers for cures, vaccines and test kits.
  • Hang up on robocalls or consider screening all calls from unfamiliar numbers.
  • Donate only to organizations you know and trust and then only through official channels.
  • Do not even respond to text messages, emails and phone calls claiming to have information about stimulus checks – even if they appear official.

Simple actions like these can spare you the hassle of dealing with identity theft and inevitable financial disaster should someone access your financial accounts.

Takeaway

Coronavirus has revealed that scammers, thieves and those who would commit fraud will take advantage of any opportunity. If you have become aware of a potential scam, it is wise to notify the authorities.

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