Don’t believe those Facebooks posts that claim to advertise easy COVID-19 cures or treatments.
Several government agencies, including the Federal Communication Commission and Federal Trade Commission, are warning citizens of scammers who are using the coronavirus crisis as an opportunity to take advantage of others.
The scams come in many different forms, ranging from fake text messages and phone calls offering free coronavirus testing to Facebook links offering free checks for grocery stores. These scams are designed to steal money or sensitive information.
Text message scams may falsely advertise products that claim cure or treat COVID-19. There are also reports of fake texts that spread misinformation and hoaxes, such as how the government is preparing to declare Martial Law and arrest citizens who are outside on sight. The FCC warns these messages can be disguised to appear as texts from a “friendly neighbor.”
The FCC encourages citizens to get their information from credible and up-to-date sources, such as cdc.gov/coronavirus.
Scammers are using similar schemes via email. The scams are known as “phishing” emails and ask for usernames and passwords, or to click on suspicious links. Clicking on the links can enable scammers to infect your device with malware that can steal sensitive information or damage your computer.
These links can also be embedded in social media posts or text messages. Be cautious when clicking on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram links.
Some scammers pose as government or health officials to try to solicit money. The World Health Organization recently warned the public to be on the lookout for criminal elements who are posing as WHO representatives.
WHO recommends that, “if anyone is contacted by a person or organization claiming to be from the Organization, they should take steps to verify their authenticity.
“Examples of suspicious behavior include asking for login information, sending unasked-for email attachments, directing people to a website other than www.who.int, and asking for direct donations to emergency response plans or funding appeals.”
Other scams take the form of robophone calls, which purport to offer free coronavirus tests kits to collect financial or health insurance information.
The FCC has an example of one of these phone call scams on its website.
“[The Coronavirus] Response Act has made coronavirus testing more accessible immediately,” the phone call example transcript reads. “If you want to receive a free testing kit delivered overnight to your home, press 1. If you do not want your free testing, press 2.”
Scammers are also using the possibility of government-issued checks as an opportunity to scam the vulnerable.
The Senate votes on the bill that would provide such checks March 25. If the bill is passed, the FCC warns that the government will not call or text you to “verify” your personal information or bank account details in order to “release funds.”
If you do get such a call, you are dealing with a scammer.
FCC offers several tips to protect yourself from scams. They include:
- Hanging up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes.
- Ignore social media offers for vaccination and test kits, as there are currently no vaccines, pills, potions lotions or other prescriptions or over the counter products that treat or cure COVID-19
- Always fact check information. Scammers, as well as well-meaning people, share information that isn’t verified.
- Don’t click on links from sources you do not know.
- Lookout for emails or messages claiming to be from health experts with new information on the virus. Credible and up-to-date information can be found at cdc.gov or who.int.
- If you choose to donate to a coronavirus-related charity, make sure to research who you are donating to. Scammers often use fake charities to steal in times of crisis.
More information can be found at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing or https://www.fcc.gov/covid-scams.