As consumers and businesses adapt to extended stay-at-home orders, scammers likewise adjust their tactics to take advantage. And as April is National Secure Your Identity month, Better Business Bureau serving Central East Texas (BBB) warns consumers about an increasing number of COVID-19 related scams aimed at compromising personally identifiable and account information.
Many of these are old scams tailored to fit COVID-19. Since the outbreak, BBB Scam Tracker has received 357 scams filed with reported losses of $46,861.
“Times of uncertainty are ideal times for scammers to prey on fear,” Mechele Agbayani Mills, President, and CEO of BBB Serving Central East Texas, said. “The bottom line is don’t respond to a text, email, or phone call from a sender that is unfamiliar, even if it looks official or from a respected agency or official.”
BBB advises consumers to be on the lookout for the following COVID-19 related scams:
Employment Scams. Many in the East Texas area were laid off or furloughed recently and maybe looking for work online in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns. Fraudsters find ways to take advantage of this by posting phony work-from-home jobs promising remote work with good pay and no interview required. These cons often use real company names and can be very convincing. The common thread with bogus employment scams is that they will need you to pay upfront for training, equipment, or they will “overpay” you and ask you to wire back the difference.
Phony Cures and Fake Masks. BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of people receiving emails and messages claiming that, for a price, they can buy products the government is supposedly keeping secret – ways to prevent or cure coronavirus. Medical experts are working hard to find a coronavirus vaccine, but none currently exists.
Economic Impact Payment (Stimulus Check) Scams. As soon as stimulus packages were announced and approved, scammers quickly got to work, sending out fake economic impact checks and asking consumers to pay fees to get their money earlier than promised. These claims are false and open consumers to the risk of identity theft and outright theft of the funds in their bank account.
Phishing Scams. Several people are now working from home, and con artists have stepped up their phishing scams. They may claim to be from an official department of the employer to offer IT support or request the company-issued computer has a virus. They may use scare tactics, stating the computer will crash if you don’t act immediately, all in an attempt to gain access to your computer remotely or to your personal or company’s information.
Government Impersonation. Another common phishing scam brought on by the coronavirus pandemic is fake emails. Also, text messages claiming the government needs you to take an “online coronavirus test” by clicking a link they provide. No such test currently exists, but if you click on the link, scammers can download malware onto your computer and gain access to your sensitive personal information.
Mandatory Testing. BBB has received reports from seniors reporting that they are receiving text messages from scammers posing as the U.S. Department of Health, about taking an online compulsory COVID-19 test to obtain the recently approved stimulus payment. Others are receiving emails stating they qualify for an amount and to click on a link to claim a check.
“Never make uneducated decisions, click on links in unsolicited emails or links, or provide any personal or account information to people you don’t know,” Mills said.
For more tips on how to be a savvy consumer during this outbreak, go to bbb.org. Please go to bbb.org or call 903-581-5704 24 hours a day for information on businesses throughout North America. To report fraudulent activity or unfair business practices, go to BBB Scam Tracker.