know fraud to stop fraud - part 5

By: Emily Jones
March 18th, 2020

Scammers Taking Advantage of Coronavirus

Scammers are known for taking advantage of people by using fear and the recent pandemic of Coronavirus (COVID-19) is no different. The outbreak is an unprecedented global event that is inspiring all sorts of people to cash in on the fraud. Here are some examples we’ve found and ways you can protect yourself.

Fake/Malicious News and Phishing

The World Health Organization (WHO) is mentioned in news coverage as an authority on the outbreak of COVID-19. This organization is also one of the most impersonated authorities in current scams. Phishing emails and links are distributed online that can install malware, steal personal information and attempt to capture your logins and passwords with key loggers. WHO is aware of the scams and has advice here https://www.who.int/about/communications/cyber-security on how they communicate with people.

In this article, we are reminded to pay attention to the website, domain name, or email address and verify that it is correct. A fraudulent email or link may direct you to a website that looks legitimate at first glance, but the address is different. For example, the WHO website is https://www.who.int/, not who.com, or who.org, or who-safety.org. If the sender of the email is name@who.int or if the web link you are looking at does not begin with https://www.who.int/ it is not a real communication/link.

To ensure you are receiving correct information, continue to get your news from sources you trust. Only click links when you can verify the source of the information or the domain name the link is going to.

Fake Products and Overpriced Supplies

Scammers are offering products for sale that can cure or prevent COVID-19 which may include teas, essential oils, tinctures, colloidal silver as well as fake vaccines and pills. There are currently no vaccines or drugs have been approved to officially treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time.

Authorities such as the Attorney General’s Office also are working to crack down on those who purchased large amounts of supplies and are reselling them online at astronomical prices to people in need. Also, beware of items for sale that do not exist. If an item’s description or price sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Use common sense when buying online. Always buy from reputable sellers, make sure the website is secure before entering payment information, and always check the return policy and your rights as a customer.  

Penny-Stock Fraud

There have been reports of con artists selling stocks for companies with products that will detect, cure or prevent COVID-19 and if you buy these stocks now, their prices will go up exponentially. It’s called penny-stock fraud or pump and dump. Watch for and be skeptical of unregistered brokers that guarantee returns, stocks that sound too good to be real, stock tips that come in an unsolicited email or phone call and check to see if your broker is registered at https://www.brokercheck.finra.org or https://www.investor.gov

Charity and Research Scams

Scammers also use fictitious charities to steal money. They range from doctors looking for donations to finish the COVID-19 vaccine—to fake charities providing medical care to children in China with COVID-19. The requests for funds may be online or over the phone. Always research the charity before giving. You can visit sites like https://www.give.org/, https://www.charitywatch.org/, https://www.guidestar.org/, and https://www.charitynavigator.org/ to see the rating of the charity, do a search online for the charity and see what people are saying about it. The FTC has a great guide here for ways to avoid charitable scams https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0074-giving-charity.

The best defense against fraud is to be cautious and aware. MidWest America has additional account security information on our website which is available to help members recognize and prevent fraud when it comes to their accounts. For more general information on catching and preventing fraud as well as how to report a scam, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/.