While COVID-19 is bringing out the best in many people, it is also bringing out new types of fraud. Most take the form of telephone calls made via “spoofing” apps or “phishing emails” designed to make it look like the call or email is from the CDC or some other authority. While this list is not exhaustive, here are common COVID-19 related scams to watch out for:
- The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office of the Inspector General has set up a fraud alert page concerning a scam that is mostly targeting the elderly. Posing as HHS, the scammers are trying to get patients’ Medicare numbers. Click here for more information.
- The Centers for Disease Control (“CDC”) has posted information about scammers who call posing as CDC officials and requesting donations. The CDC cautions that it does not solicit donations over the telephone and that you should not share banking information with the CDC. Click here to learn more.
- Similar scams where callers pose as officials from the World Health Organization (“WHO”) have also been reported.
- Some scammers are offering (bogus) COVID-19 testing and supplies. COVID-19 testing is only available via a healthcare professional and neither tests nor supplies are sold over the internet or telephone.
- Likewise, here is a roundup of fake ads for masks, free Netflix subscriptions, etc. Click here for more information.
- The U.S. Treasury Department is reporting a scam where people call offering COVID-19 related grants. The U.S. Treasury does not offer grants, but there has been an uptick in this activity since the passage of the CARES Act and the launch of small business relief programs. Click here for more information.
- There has also been an increase in phishing emails and websites posing as COVID-19 information sites. The sites ask you to click for more information but instead of providing it, they lock up devices with malware.
- The Department of Justice has a clearinghouse of resources dealing with fraud, hoarding and price gouging, including common scams.
- The Federal Communications Commission also has a list of telephone and text scams that have been reported, including example recordings. Click here for the list of scams.
- Finally, the Arizona Medical Board is warning local physicians of a scam where the scammers call doctors posing as the AZ Medical Board. The scammers state that there is a Board complaint against the physician and then try to extort payments in exchange for resolution. Providers should note that the Board does not ask for direct payments or banking information to resolve complaints. Click here for more information.
It is impossible to detect all scams, but there is a lot you can do to protect yourself and others:
- Be careful and trust your gut! Just as with the popular Social Security Number scam, the government is unlikely to call you directly and want banking information or offer grants. Check official websites and go through proper channels to confirm what programs actually exist. Several of the sites listed above can be consulted to help you determine if a call, text, email or website is legitimate or not.
- Do not give your personal info, such as your SSN and banking information, over the telephone or email.
- Do not click on links in emails, text messages and/or websites you do not know much about. The real CDC is not going to ask you to click a link for medical testing.
- Check an email address or link by hovering over it with your mouse to see where it leads.
- Look for generic greetings, spelling and grammar errors and other things that don’t look quite right. If an email or website looks strange or too good to be true, it probably is.
- Avoid emails or sites that implore you to “ACT NOW!” These types of pressure tactics often signal a scam.
- Only rely on legitimate, trusted information sources – such as the actual CDC, WHO, and/or Arizona Department of Health Services websites.
- There is currently no cure or treatment protocol for COVID-19 available on-line. Don’t fall for it if these are offered.
- If you have questions, ask your IT expert to take a look before clicking/responding.
- If you are the victim of a scam, report it to your local authorities.
Stay home, stay healthy and stay safe from scammers!