Protecting Yourself from Scams Related to Coronavirus

Unfortunately, fraudsters don’t let up during a global crisis. In fact, many will take advantage of the situation at hand and develop new ways to take advantage of consumers.

From January 1 to April 15, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) received 18,235 reports related to COVID-19, and people reported losing $13.44 million dollars to fraud.

Below we’ve outlined some of the scams that have arisen during the Coronavirus pandemic and tips for how to protect yourself:

Stimulus Checks Scams

With the delivery of stimulus checks underway, scammers are finding ways to gather your personal information with promise of faster delivery of your funds through calls, text messages, and emails. The government will never call you, text you, or email you, and ask for your personal information in this way.

All information on stimulus check eligibility and how your payment will be issued if you qualify should only be accessed through the IRS website.

Charity Donation Request Scams

There are many organizations requesting funds directed specifically towards COVID-19 relief. If you find yourself wanting to contribute to one of these worthy funds, please do your research first.

It’s important to make sure you’re giving to a trusted non-profit organization and that you know where the funds are being directed before giving. The FTC advises you to avoid requests asking you to give a donation by cash, gift card or wire.

Text and Email Phishing Scams

Fraudsters have found ways to disguise emails to look like they’re coming from legitimate sources. They will include links and if clicked, those could install malware on your computer and allow access to your personal and financial information. View an example of a phishing email on the FTC website.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been reported phishing scams from fraudsters disguised as the Center for Disease Control or World Health Organization offering information on Coronavirus cases in your area to healthcare companies offering downloads or links to health advice. There has also been an uptick in workplace email scams offering links to new policies and procedures related to the pandemic.

Protecting yourself from phishing scams requires vigilant due diligence.

  • Double check the email address and links before clicking on anything. Many scammers will create an email address that’s slightly off and only noticeable if you look closely. You can also hover over a link to see if it’s a legitimate website before clicking. When in doubt, do not click email links unless you are 100% certain it’s from a verified sender.
  • Watch out for requests for your personal information. A legitimate institution will not send you an unsolicited email asking for your personal information to be entered. If you have any doubts, don’t give any information out without calling to verify the request first.
  • Look out for generic greetings, misspellings, and emails that insist you act now. All of these are red flags to a potential phishing scam and should be ignored and deleted immediately.

Robocall Scams

The FTC reports that illegal callers have been using this tactic to pitch coronavirus cures and vaccines, as well as work at home schemes. The recorded voice will ask you to dial a number to speak to a representative or even dial a number to be removed from the call list. Do not dial any numbers and hang up immediately when you receive a recorded call.

Illegitimate Online Retailers

For a seasoned fraudster, setting up an online store isn’t a tall task. That’s why it’s vital that you only purchase items from legitimate, secure websites.

These scammers will pretend to have highly sought after goods like hand sanitizers, face masks, and cleaning supplies to lure in desperate consumers. Items ordered through these sites will never get delivered and once you enter in your order, you’ve given the scammers your credit card and personal information.

In addition to cleaning supplies, there are also online scammers claiming to have at home testing kits for Coronavirus. At this time, there are no federally regulated at home testing kits and these are just a scam to gather your financial information.

Protect yourself by using trusted online retailers to make your purchases. If you come across a site you don’t recognize touting these items, google the seller and verify their legitimacy before making a purchase.

Helpful Resources

  • If you have fallen victim to a scam related to COVID-19 and have not already done so, please visit this link to file a complaint with the FTC. There is a specific place at the top of the page to log Coronavirus specific fraud.
  • If you’ve experienced fraud related to a Needham Bank account, please contact us immediately at 1-781-444-2100.
  • Our Financial Wellness Center includes articles to help protect yourself from online scams, identity theft, debit card scams, and other helpful topics.