As businesses start reopening and people begin returning to work throughout the country, the initial thought was that COVID-19 scams would cease. Unfortunately, that isn’t the case. If anything, they are continuing. Some might even say they are growing as people begin to return to the office, and life begins to take on the appearance of a new normal. Scammers are viewing this as an opportunity to use COVID-19 for their own purposes.
Here are some of the scams that are going around at the moment that are worth being aware of.
COVID-19 Contact Tracing Scams
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently released a warning about a contact tracing text message scam. Scammers send text messages that closely mirror actual text messages sent on behalf of the department of health in individual states. Contract tracing is a process where the state’s health department works with those infected with the coronavirus to alert others they may have been in contact with.
The real contact tracing messages do not ask for any personal, financial, or identifying information from recipients. The scam messages, on the other hand, do. If you receive a similar message and they ask for your Social Security number, bank account information, or credit card information, it is a scam.
Also, “contact tracing” text messages asking you to click on a link are scam text messages. We’ve drilled this in before, but do not click on the link!
Other scams to be on the lookout for are:
● Robocall scams offering fake cures over the phone or data mining for information.
● Robocall scams offering free COVID-19 testing kits.
● Robocall scams selling health insurance.
● Phishing relief scams that provide large sums of money if you fill out their forms.
● Banking information scams pretending to verify account numbers to deposit relief checks into your financial accounts.
The problem with these scams is that they can look surprisingly official. Many of them claim to be from actual government agencies promising help to desperate, afraid, and confused people. Unfortunately, high-risk individuals, such as the elderly, are more frequently targeted.
As you can see, there is no shortage of scams out there. Now, as businesses are returning to work and opening their doors, scammers are targeting business owners. These come in the form of emails, texts, and phone calls promising government grants, additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) payments, and more. Scammers thrive in environments of confusion. Preventing fraud is the best way to fight it.
How You Can Help Yourself
We’re all navigating uncharted waters at the moment. This is something new for everyone. That doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to protect yourself. Here are some of the actions you can take to protect yourself from many of these scams.
● Filter or block text messages from unknown senders on your phone. Some carriers can help you through this process.
● Protect financial and credit accounts with multi-factor authentication. This makes it more difficult for scammers to break into your accounts.
● Auto-update security systems on your electronic devices to prevent malware attacks. Use anti-virus software on all your devices, including computers, tablets, and mobile phones.
● Create frequent backups of important files to the cloud.
● Use unique passwords and change them periodically.
● Don’t click on links in emails, texts, or even social media from people or organizations you don’t know.
● Verify that information claiming to be from trusted organizations or government agencies is actually from these agencies – even so, don’t give out identifying information over the phone, through email, or via text message.
● Check the sender’s email address to make sure it is authentic. Scammers often replicate emails sent from other businesses, but usually have a different email, such as email@example.com rather than firstname.lastname@example.org. The difference is subtle, but it is there.
Prevention is the best cure, and these steps will help you avoid some of the dangerous COVID-19 scams going around at the moment.
We’re Here to Help!
Unfortunately, scams related to COVID-19 are not going anywhere. It’s important to remain vigilant and take steps to actively prevent fraud on your accounts. As your Credit Union, we care about the privacy and protection of your accounts. However, scams directly targeting people through text messages, emails, and phone calls still occur.