Protect yourself from COVID-19 scams

The world continues to rapidly change as we learn more about the repercussions of the COVID-19 virus. Health and safety of our communities continues to be our top priority. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has also caused more cases of scam and fraud.

From phishing scams to fraudulent phone calls and fake charities, there are many ways criminals are working to get your personal and financial information. OVB BSA Officer Barb Patrick urges folks to be aware of all potential scams and to report any suspected fraud immediately.

“Report all fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/complaint) and your local bank,” she said.

If you believe you are a victim of fraud involving COVID-19, additional outlets to report to include the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at disaster@leo.gov. Cyber scam complaints may also be submitted through http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

According to Patrick, people should be particularly aware of COVID-19 related phishing scams, which can come via email and text. Phishing emails, for example, may ask you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the media, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails that seek your private information in order to send money. The emails might be designed to look like they are from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Beware of emails that might even falsely claim a link to a list of COVID-19 cases in your area.

According to the FBI, phishing emails may claim to be related to charitable contributions; general financial relief; airline carrier refunds; fake cures and vaccines; and fake testing kits. Other emails might even come in the form of workplace policy. For example, some cyber criminals have targeted workplace email accounts, which could prompt you to click a link to a fake company policy thus prompting the download of malicious software. Therefore, it is important that companies and individuals have up-to-date virus protection software installed on their devices. Follow these recommendations to avoid falling victim to phishing emails:

  • Verify email address or link. Inspect links by hovering your computer mouse button over the URL to see where it leads. It might be obvious that the website is not legitimate. However, cyber criminals are more than capable of creating links that closely resemble legitimate sources. Delete the email immediately.
  • Be wary of online requests for personal information. For example, a COVID-19 email that prompts you to enter your Social Security Number or login information is a scam. Government agencies will not ask for this information. Do not respond to any emails with your personal data.
  • Avoid emails that insist on urgency. Many phishing emails are written to create a sense of urgency, which is a major red flag. These emails are designed to demand immediate action, with the goal being to get you to enter your personal information.
  • Check for grammar and spelling errors. If an email contains grammatical errors as well as misspelled words, chances are it is a phishing email.
  • Keep an eye out for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Generic greetings, such as “Dear sir or madam” are likely not legitimate.

According to the United States Department of Justice, other COVID-19 scams to watch out for include the following:

  • Individuals and Businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online or engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information that gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

To combat additional COVID-19 scams, the Federal Trade Commission encourages people to hang up on all robocalls. The FTC also says to ignore all online offers that advertise vaccinations and home test kits. Currently, there are no vaccines and/or pills available to treat COVID-19 in stores or online. In addition, there are no FDA-authorized home test kits available.

The importance of fact-checking information you encounter regarding COVID-19 is essential. Scammers and even your friends, who mean well, may share information about the virus that has not been verified. Visit www.cdc.gov and www.coronavirus.gov for valid COVID-19 information. Should you need additional guidance, contact your primary care physician.

By staying vigilant and aware of COVID-19 scams, we can work together to keep our communities and loved ones safe.

 

 

 

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