How to Avoid Coronavirus Scams

danger scam alert

Advice for the Disability Community About Fraud

We had BraunAbility's head of digital security write the following article about the online scams that are on the rise.  Arlie provides some background data, a list of common scams and things you can do to try to stay ahead of the scammers and protect yourself.    

Fraudsters have been taking advantage of tragedy and uncertain times since the beginning of time. It appears that in the age of social distancing, scammers are using more electronic tactics. The Federal Trade Commission has seen a remarkable increase in the number of reported loss to fraudsters related to COVID-19. From January 1st to April 2nd, there have been 9,918 reports with a total loss of $6.85M. This will only increase as citizens anticipate the Coronavirus Relief Bill, the CARES Act payout of an estimated $560B.

What’s a Big Watch Out?  Clicking Links in Emails.

Scammers will target people by sending emails that typically incite people to visit websites, open attachments or install software. They do this by using clickbait links, creating a panic to act immediately, often by impersonating a trusted brand, business or even your friends and family.

Undelivered Package Scam

Social distancing is making people reliant on e-commerce for essential goods. Scammers will take advantage of this by sending you an email branded with parcel service logos and asking you to visit a website or login to determine what package you are missing. Keep records of your e-commerce orders and verify by visiting the parcel service website directly, not via a link, or by searching the tracking numbers in a search engine like Google.

Fake Charities

Many people are looking for ways to help others right now and scammers will solicit people on behalf of legitimate charities but pocket the money for themselves. Legitimate charities can be reached on their websites for donations. A legitimate charity will not ask for gift cards or alternative payments.

Impersonation of Authorities

With the anticipated Coronavirus relief check disbursement, criminals will pretend to be officials from federal, state and local governments. If you qualify for assistance, you are not required to do anything to receive the check. The government will use tax filing information to distribute checks. No one has early access to these funds. Never give financial or personal information to anyone who has emailed or called you.

Misinformation

Criminals and misinformed individuals may spread false claims or information. Use known sources like the NIH, CDC, FTC, and state governments for accurate COVID-19 information. No one has inside information on cures, therapies, treatments, or vaccines. Beware anyone offering to sell sanitizers, masks or other personal protection equipment not readily available to the general public.

Fake Work From Home Opportunities

With record numbers of people filing for unemployment, scammers will be preying on desperate people looking for income by offering a full time job or to pay for various "consulting" jobs. Criminals will then try to collect personal information including banking information for direct deposit. Some schemes will use victims to “mule” money by depositing funds or sending stolen goods and having the victim wire the cash overseas or ship the stolen goods.

What You Can Do? Stay Vigilant When You Receive Emails.

  • Were you expecting this message?
  • Do you know the sender?
  • Does the sender's email address look legitimate?
  • Does the sender use a generic greeting like "Hello Dear"?
  • Does the message contain a sense of urgency or threats?
  • Does the grammar and style look legitimate?
  • Does the message contain links? If so, does the link look legitimate?
  • Are there any attachments?
  • Do you recognize the file type?

Criminals will attempt to get malware on your computer by tricking you to install it or leverage a vulnerability in the software. Keep your computer operating system and applications up to date. Prepare for the worst-case scenario by ensuring you have a current backup of your data safely stored off your computer.

When you receive dubious claims or information about COVID-19, do some fact-checking by contacting trusted sources. For information related to the Coronavirus, visit the CDC or NIH. There you’ll find links to federal, state and local government agencies.

Finally, if you receive a robocall, don’t press any numbers. Just end the call. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but this is not the case.

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