Beware of Coronavirus Scams

Authored By: Community Financial Credit Union on 3/17/2020
Scammers are notorious for capitalizing on fear, and the coronavirus outbreak is no exception. They have already set up fake websites, bogus funding collections and more in an effort to trick the fearful and unsuspecting out of their money.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published on its website a warning against email scams connected to the coronavirus. The agency claims it has received reports from around the world about phishing attempts mentioning coronavirus on an almost daily basis.

The best weapons against these scams are awareness and education. When people know about circulating scams and how to identify them, they’re already several steps ahead of the scammers. Here are some of the most prevalent coronavirus scams happening now:

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. Please be leery of calls claiming to be from medical organizations that have a COVID-19 vaccination and require over the phone payments to reserve a dose. Currently there is no vaccine for the virus.

The bogus health agency

Scammers send alert emails appearing to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the WHO. These emails use the logo of the agencies that allegedly sent them, and the URL is similar to those of the agencies as well.

Victims believe these missives are sent by legitimate agencies. While some of these emails provide useful information, they often also spread misinformation. Even worse, they infect the victims’ computers with malware. Don't click on pop ups or links from sources that you do not recognize that contain information about the COVID-19 Virus.

The phony purchase order

Scammers hack the computer systems at medical treatment centers to obtain information about outstanding orders for face masks and other supplies. The scammers 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.

The cleaning scam

Senior citizens should be leery of any phone calls they receive offering special deals to clean and sanitize their homes. Such fake deals often include the requirement of a pre-payment made over the phone. Scammers often give themselves away when they ask for payment via specific means, including wire transfer or prepaid gift card.

Preventing scams

Keep the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer current and strengthen the security settings on your devices. Be sure to practice responsible internet usage. Never download attachments from unknown sources or click on links embedded in an email from an unknown sender. Don’t 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.”

Watch out for emails containing poor writing skills and misspelled words. “Breaking information” alerts allegedly sent by health agencies are another sign of a scam.

Finally, it’s a good idea to stay updated on the latest news about the coronavirus to avoid falling prey to misinformation. If you feel that you have been a victim of a COVID-19 scam or if you think that you have been contacted by a scammer, please contact your local police department for guidance.

Your Turn: Have you heard of other coronavirus scams? Please share your story in the comments.

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