Be On the Lookout for Coronavirus Money Scams
Just as viral as the coronavirus is, also referred to as COVID-19, are the many coronavirus money scams targeting consumers which are growing and spreading in number.
Current robocall and email phishing scams targeting the coronavirus-fearful include free home testing kits and diabetic monitoring, environmental health meters, HVAC duct cleaning to rid your home of the coronavirus, fake unsubstantiated medical cures and the ability to stock up on needed supplies such as designer face masks (don’t click that link!)
But, once the spread of the virus dies down and people realize that their stockpiles of toilet paper will get them through the next 6 months and that canned green beans really aren’t an adequate substitute for the fresh kind, the ever-trolling scammers (gosh they’re creative!) will start their full court press on unsuspecting victims who have everything they need – except cash. And that’s where we will see even more coronavirus money scams.
For example, the World Health Organization has issued a warning about phone calls and text messages appearing to come from the WHO but are really from criminals attempting to steal money or sensitive personal information from consumers.
While the number of calls and emails phishing for unsuspecting victims is growing during the initial stages of this crisis, they have the chance to become more prevalent as the full economic impact of the coronavirus sets in over the coming weeks. As potentially hundreds of thousands or even millions of people become unemployed due to business shutdowns, more of us may require funding from alternative sources to make our payments. That desperation serves up plenty of opportunity for phishers and scammers to do their dirty work – at your expense.
What are the Coronavirus Scams?
Coronavirus money scams include text messages with offers of fast cash to help cover basic expenses and that require you to click on a link or even submit your banking information.
Unsolicited text and email loan offers with unrealistically low interest rates.
Predators will send emails with “COVID-19” or “Coronavirus” in the subject line. “Need Cash due to COVID-19?” is not a professional email subject line.
Unsolicited calls from banks or government institutions promising aid in the form of a loan due to the coronavirus. They will never call you!
Calls, texts or emails about your impending “Government issued COVID check.” We’ve all heard that many Americans can expect to receive money from the Government but they will not reach out to you to verify your bank account details first in order to “release the funds.”
Seriously people, you're going to hand over your routing and bank account numbers just because a stranger asks for them?
If you are eligible for the upcoming donation from our Government, you’ll simply receive a check in the mail. Let’s just hope the banks are open by then so you can cash it.
Finally, be on the lookout for unsolicited callers that pressure you to pay for something “right away.” Hang up the phone (or slam it down) and then add the caller’s number to your blocked call list. Good job!
How do I Inoculate Myself from Coronavirus Money Scams?
Don’t answer the phone from unknown callers. Stop being curious and please use your caller ID. Mom. If it’s a legitimate caller, they will leave a voicemail and you can validate before calling them back.
Never click on a link from an unknown source. Those links may have malware that compromises the security of your laptop or mobile device. Stop doing this already!
Online conferences are huge now. Be wary of invitations to web conferences – even from what appears to be your employer or others. Those links could be potential phishing expeditions or trojan malware. If you weren’t expecting a web conference, validate the sender (offline!) before clicking the link.
Charity donations. We know you love to give to charity but if you are going to do so, don’t do it by clicking on a link from an email or text message. If there is a charity that you want to donate to, go straight to their website. Americans have proven time and time again that during a national crisis we are amazing at sharing what we have – let’s just share it with the right people!
URL Check. If you do click on a link and it takes you to what appears to be a legitimate website check the URL address real quick up at the top of your browser before doing anything else. Scammers can very easily replicate the exact look and feel of a bank’s website, for example, but the URL will not be the bank’s.
In sum, just be super cautious right now. Assume all unexpected contacts to you are potential coronavirus money scams so don’t click on any links or return any of those phone calls. Mom. Be absolutely sure to NEVER offer up any personal information and don’t even confirm your name. (It’s a good best practice anyway.)
What if I do need cash fast?
The safest options for money right now are a loan direct from your bank or consider a friends and family loan. Friends and family may be the fastest way to get the cash you need to pay your rent, your bills or your car payment if you find yourself one of the many who are out of work or underemployed due to the pandemic.
Check out our resources below to help get you started on sorting your upcoming finances. And, be safe out there.