COVID-19 Scams

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Avoid Coronavirus Scams

Communities are doing a lot to support one-another in these unprecedented times, but unfortunately scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Some scams purport to be providing relief or cures. Some scammers are preying on the generosity of people and asking you to donate to victims or relief funds.

Please don’t fall victim to these frauds and crimes. Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.

If you see these frauds being attempted or if you are victimized by these frauds, please report them to:

Some examples of COVID-19 scams include:

Unemployment Scams

The Montana Department of Labor & Industry (DLI) announced on June 12th, 2020 that the agency has prevented over $220M in fraudulent Unemployment Insurance (UI) payments since April 28. Scammers are utilizing information obtained from various large-scale data breaches (such as Equifax) to file for fraudulent unemployment claims. If you receive a UI identity verification letter and have not filed for benefits or believe you may be a victim of unemployment or identity fraud to report it at http://uid.dli.mt.gov/report-fraud immediately.

In some instances, the FTC says unemployment payments may be sent to the real person instead of the impostor. The criminal may attempt to contact the individual whose information they stole pretending to be a government official and say the funds were sent by mistake.

“If you get benefits you never applied for, report it to your state unemployment agency and ask for instructions,” the FTC said. “Don’t respond to any calls, emails, or text messages telling you to wire money, send cash, or put money on gift cards. Your state agency will never tell you to repay money that way. Anyone who tells you to do those things is a scammer. Every time.”

The Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft website at identitytheft.gov also provides resources and a detailed step-by-step process for reporting and protecting against identity theft.

Grants or Stimulus Payments

If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, tax, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond. These are scams.

Phishing Scams

Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.

  • Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
  • Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
  • Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.

App Scams

Scammers are creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information. Watch out for any links texted to your Android phone promising an app to track coronavirus.

Treatment Scams

Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19. Check reputable sources like the CDC and WHO for factual information about treatments and prevention measures.

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.
  • Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Remember, if there is a medical breakthrough, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.
  • Check online reviews of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.

In-Demand Product Scams

Online sellers claim they have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. You place an order, but you never get your shipment. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name — including scammers.

  • Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction.
  • If you’re concerned about the pricing of products in your area, contact your state consumer protection officials. Montana Attorney General Tim Fox can be reached at (406) 444-2026. For a complete list of state Attorneys General, visit naag.org.

Provider Scams

Scammers are contacting people by phone and email demanding payment for treatment of a friend or relative that they claim was hospitalized for Coronavirus.

Charity Scams

Scammers are soliciting donations for false “funds” for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.

  • Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations in connection with COVID-19 before giving. Remember, an organization may not be legitimate even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name or has reputable looking seals or logos on its materials. For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
  • Be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Don’t send money through any of these channels.

Investment Scams

Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.

For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites.

Source: https://www.justice.gov/usao-wdpa/covid-19-fraud-page

Source: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/ftc-coronavirus-scams-part-2