The coronavirus pandemic has given rise to online scams in Mississippi and elsewhere. Global catfishing is increasing, as with all epidemics when people are most vulnerable, says SocialCatfish.com, an online identity verification service.
A recent report released by SocialCatfish.com outlined four online coronavirus scams to avoid, using current guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the World Health Organization (WHO), and identifying common scams used during H1N1, Ebola and Zika outbreaks.
Be alert to:
Grandparent and family scams often occur at night and target older adults. You may answer your phone and hear someone saying, “Grandma” or “Grandpa.” Maybe you’re a little tired, as it’s the evening and you don’t think twice when they ask you for a loan.
They’ll say that they’ve contracted the virus and are homebound and in quarantine. They will ask you to send them a gift card online, immediately, so they can buy delivery food or supplies. You’ll be upset and do so, without thinking twice. The caller will actually be a scammer and keep your money.
How to avoid: Always check caller ID to make sure it is actually your loved one calling. If you scammers are masking caller ID to make it seem like it’s your loved one, call the family member back on their trusted phone number to verify it’s them. Don’t send money over the phone, even if it is someone you think you trust. Always give it in person.
You might love natural products, but if people are trying to sell you colloidal silver or aromatherapy to combat the virus, you’re being scammed. There are currently no viable antibiotics for the coronavirus and natural products are not, in any way, proven to do the trick and fight this illness.
The Federal Trade Commission is compiling these fraudulent scams and products and has released a list. You might see these scam products shared on social media with testimonials or warnings about the disease. Don’t fall for them and keep your money for items you might actually need if you’re sick.
How to avoid: Do not believe anyone who says they have found a natural remedy to cure the coronavirus. Chances are they just want to sell you fake products so they can take your money.
You love your friends and family and don’t want them to fall ill. However, if you are asked to contribute to a fund to develop a vaccine to fight against coronavirus, you’re being scammed.
You might even receive a “secret” call, email or text about a supposed government vaccine that only you and a select few are privy to. If it sounds too good to be true it is, especially in regards to the coronavirus. Don’t give the solicitor your credit card information, or it will be compromised/stolen.
How to avoid: Don’t listen to anyone who asks for money over the phone, no matter what the excuse is. If someone you don’t know asks for money over the phone, chances are they are probably a scammer trying to steal your money. Hospitals and universities will be the ones to help fund vaccines and research to try and find a cure.
Fake CDC and WHO emails
You receive a fake email which looks legitimate. It reads as if it was sent from the CDC or WHO. The email might link to a product that will “help you.” However, the email is actually a scam and not really sent by the organization it appears to be from.
How to avoid: Don’t click on any email that claims it has a product to help cure coronavirus. The cure will be on legitimate news pages before an email gets sent out listing a cure for this illness. If you still aren’t sure of whether to trust the email, look at the “reply to” email address and all hyperlinks in the email. They will link you to outside websites that are not secure and can collect all your financial data or download malware.
If you encounter a coronavirus scam, contact local law enforcement or file a complaint with the FTC. If your information was compromised (financial and personal data), check your credit report and request a credit freeze. While we shouldn’t panic, we can stay safe with good hygiene and remembering that most people stay healthy and recover fast, even from COVID-19.
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