Protecting Yourself from Fraud during COVID-19

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While the COVID-19 virus presents its challenges to our everyday life, scammers and fraudsters are up to their old tricks again, trying to take advantage of the panic and exploit people’s fears. As always, Call Federal is doing everything in our power to protect you and your accounts.

Here are a few of the scams you should be aware of:

Impersonating Health Organizations

Typically, during this time of year, we are on high alert for fraudulent callers who claim to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), giving fake credentials in hopes you’ll give them your social security number or other personal information. In light of the current situation, we’re seeing a similar activity from scammers impersonating agents from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). They send emails will malicious links and ask readers to click on the links for updated information about the virus. Clicking on these links can installs malware, steal personal information, record keystrokes, etc.

Exploiting Charitable Donations

“Tugging on heart strings” is a go-to move for cheats & fraudsters. If you receive an email asking for donations to help fund a vaccine, or for relief efforts to help children affected by the virus here or abroad, be extra careful to verify the source and legitimacy before giving any personal information, let alone money.

Selling Cures or Supplies

In a March 9th press release, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) announced they had sent cease-and-desist letters to seven companies for selling fraudulent COVID-19 products. These companies were promoting teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver as ways to cure, treat or prevent the virus. Fraudsters also know that items like masks, gloves and disinfectant are in high demand and low supply. They create links that offer these items, with no intention of ever delivering the products.

Malware Links

Many emails and websites promise information or tracking of the virus if you click on a link. Once you do, that link will install malware or ransomware on your phone. Once installed, fraudsters can lock your phone and demand payment in bitcoin to have it unlocked.

Fake Government Assistance Checks

As the Congress works to provide economic relief to those affected by the coronavirus outbreak, fraudsters see yet another to cheat people out of their money. In the case of government assistance checks, scammers will call and ask you to pay a fee, in advance, to receive the check. Or they may claim to have a special offer, where they’ll send you a check, you deposit it, then wire them a portion of the funds or use the money to purchase gift cards and send them the codes, you’ll receive some additional reward. If the government does send official checks in the coming weeks, we can expect to see an increase in fraudulent ones as well.

How Can I Protect Myself?

Here are some steps you can take to help protect your identity, your funds and your information:

·         Don’t click on any links from sources you don’t know or recognize. When you are looking at an email, look for the email address that the email came from, not just the name that shows up as the sender.

·         Research an organization before making a charitable donation. Many legitimate charities are required to file certain documents, and can be researched through databases like GuideStar.org. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation, and if they insist on receiving it in the form of a gift card or a wire transfer, reconsider the donation.

·         Be wary of emails claiming to be from a government health organization like the CDC or the WHO. The best way to find the latest updates from those organizations is to visit their websites. Search for them yourselves rather than clicking links to take you there.

·         Be wary of giving your personal information over the phone. Financial institutions and most legitimate businesses will never call you and ask for your full social security number or your debit card number. If you ever have any doubts or concerns about who you are talking to, hang up and call them yourself on the phone number listed on their website.

·         The CDC has advised that there are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19. Any website or email claiming to offer one should be treated with extreme caution.

 

These are very trying times and it’s important to stay vigilant and aware of scams and tactics used by fraudsters.

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