Coast Hills

Fraudsters Are Out There. Don't Fall For Virus-Related Scams

by Joshua D. Scroggin
March 18, 2020
A woman sips from a mug while using a laptop computer on her bed.

Wherever there are people in legitimate need of help, you can count on criminals laying in wait to try and intercept the goodwill of those willing to lend a hand. And it’s all of our duty to stay vigilant and make sure the merchants, charities — and even mobile phone applications — we’re connecting with aren’t fraudsters in disguise.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in partnership with the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has been cracking down on false claims made by some who are looking to capitalize on the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic and released a warning to consumers about scams that are happening right now.

The common denominator: Always make sure that you are dealing with a legitimate organization. Here are some signs to watch out for.

Don’t trust links. This is a good rule to follow whether fraud activity is heightened or not. Simply, don’t click links from sources you don’t know. And be suspicious of those you receive from friends, family or colleagues but weren’t necessarily expecting. Many times, criminals will spoof an email to make it appear to be from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or another trusted source. Always independently verify information before giving your trust. Clicking a scam link can download viruses or spyware onto your phone or computer. There are even phone apps claiming to have virus-tracking technology that are really surveillance apps using your camera and microphone to spy on you. Only install applications from trusted sources.

There’s no miracle cure. Don’t believe the online or televised offers you see claiming to have the secret treatment, cure or vaccination for coronavirus. As of this publication date (3/18/2020) there are no vaccines, cures or specialized treatments for COVID-19. Perhaps there will be, but for news on what products to use, stick to official, trusted medical sources. Some of the cures you may have seen being touted are from sources who have been caught committing fraud or dishonesty in the past. Consider the reputation of the people making the claims.  

Verify your charity. With online tools, modern telecommunication and social media, our lives are made more convenient than ever. But just because something is convenient doesn’t mean it’s always legitimate. You may see a crowdfunding site, an easy way to text donations or a notification from a friend to get involved. Before you send your money, search for clues to make sure that the charity is legitimate and the channel you’re using will get it to the right place. If you have any doubts, call the organization directly at its official phone number and ask. And if anyone is asking for donations in gift cards or wire transfers, those are big red flags.

Certify before you buy. You might be running low on certain household items. Be it toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bottled water, dry or canned food — many retailers around the globe are out of stock because of increased demand, even trusted fallback options like Amazon and Wal-Mart. Be wary of online retailers that claim to have stock of suddenly in-demand items, such as face masks. It’s common for criminals to set up phony websites or merchant accounts without having any products whatsoever. They will take your payment, but your purchase will never show up. Make sure you’re dealing with a real retailer. Don’t pay scalper prices, and if the deal sounds too good to be true, it’s probably fake.

Similar topics: Financial Fitness

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