While fraud can happen at any time, scammers often ramp up their efforts in times of crisis to take advantage of people's vulnerability and financial uncertainty. Unfortunately, throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers have been working hard to steal personal information and money.
Here's a closer look at a few common COVID-19-related scams:
Recently, scammers have been sending fraudulent messages via phone, email, text and social media posing as the IRS, Social Security Administration, Census, FDIC and other government-affiliated sources. These fake messages might claim to offer quick relief payments, cash grants or small business loans in return for money or personal information like your Social Security number or account numbers. Do not respond to these messages, even if they sound urgent.
Remember the U.S. government will never call, text or contact you on social media to request money or offer help getting your Economic Impact Payment faster. The government will also not ask for your personal or financial information or ask you to pay anything up-front to receive funds. Any requests to pay fees with cash, a gift card, money wire transfer or cryptocurrency are sure signs of a scam.
COVID-19 Phishing Emails
Scammers have also been sending COVID-19-related emails to trick victims into sharing their personal data and passwords or downloading malware to their computers. The phishing emails may appear to come from a trusted source like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO), as well as schools, workplaces, hospitals, credit card companies and even financial institutions like Wright-Patt Credit Union (WPCU).
COVID-19-related phishing emails may contain enticing offers for free relief money, or attachments or links with urgent information about how to prevent and treat COVID-19. Other phishing emails may claim they've noticed a problem with your account or payment information. If you receive a suspicious message like this, don't respond, click the links or download the attachments. They're likely a scam!
Charitable Giving Fraud
Fake charity scams prey on people's generosity during tough times. With many people in need due to COVID-19, the opportunity for charity scams is high. Scammers may pretend to represent legitimate organizations or make up their own charity names and fake websites. They will call you on the phone, email or go door-to-door requesting donations to support people affected by COVID-19.
Before you give to any charity, take time to research the organization. If someone is pressuring you to donate immediately, they're probably a scammer. Legitimate charities will accept your money whenever you're ready to donate.
How to protect yourself from coronavirus scams
- Although there are many new scams surrounding COVID-19, there are also many ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim. Here are some tips:
- Imposter messages may seem real at first, but if you inspect them closely, you'll realize they're a scam. Look carefully for typos, poor grammar and unfamiliar sender addresses. When in doubt, call the source directly using their official phone number.
- Never click on unknown attachments, links or provide personal identifiable information via an unsecured website.
- Don't respond to emails asking to confirm your Social Security, Medicare ID, driver's license, account or credit card numbers.
- When searching for information about the coronavirus, go directly to reputable sources like Coronavirus.gov, the CDC or the World Health Organization.
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails or phone calls requesting your personal information. If you receive an automated phone call, simply hang up. As a reminder, WPCU will never call or email asking you to provide us your personal or account information.
- Do your homework before donating to a charitable cause. Don't let anyone rush you into making a donation.
COVID-19-related fraud is on the rise, but you can prevent becoming a victim if you know the signs of a scam. Visit ftc.gov/coronavirus/scams for additional information on avoiding coronavirus scams. If you spot a scam, visit ftc.gov/complaint to report it.
WPCU is always here to help you protect your personal and financial information and avoid becoming a victim of fraud. For more fraud prevention tips, visit WPCU.coop/StopFraud.