United Church of Christ – Wider Church Ministries
Humanitarian Development Team
Coronavirus (COVID-19) Daily Briefing
Barbara T. Baylor, MPH – Temporary Health Liaison
Beware! Coronavirus Scammers May Be Out to Get You
It should come as no surprise that “scammers” are taking advantage of people’s fears, needs and hopes during the COVID-19 pandemic. Calls, false advertisements, scam and hoax text messages and emails promise to speed your $1,200 check, or mandate that you test for COVID-19 online, to name just two current schemes.
Such fraudulent schemes often impersonate government agencies, charities – even your friends and neighbors. And they have one goal: to steal your personal information and your money.
To paraphrase a familiar adage, “If it sounds too good (or bad) to be true, it probably is.”
Of course, fraudulent schemes (scams) are nothing new, and they often prey on seniors. Impersonating the IRS was the number one scam targeting seniors in 2018. Seniors lose an estimated $2.9 billion annually from financial exploitation, according to the Senate Special Committee on Aging.
Your best defense: Stay on high alert to spot suspicious messages. Don’t click on any links. And don’t give (or confirm) ANY personal information, not even your phone number, name or address, and definitely not your Social Security number or bank account information.
Here are just a few current scams impersonating government agencies that are using COVID-19 (coronavirus) messaging:
“FCC Financial Care Center” offering $30,000 in COVID-19 relief. There is no FCC (Federal Communications Commission) program to provide relief funds to consumers.
The Better Business Bureau is also warning of a text message scam impersonating the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. It “informs” recipients that they must take a "mandatory online COVID-19 test" using the included link to a website. There is no online test for coronavirus!
The FCC warns of robocalls that offer free COVID-19 virus test kits along with a free diabetes monitor, targeting higher-risk individuals with diabetes.
Relief payment calls, text and emails purportedly from the Social Security Administration, Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Census Bureau, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) or Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) say you’re approved for money, can get relief payments, or get cash grants due to the coronavirus.
Medicare scam calls offer things like a “COVID-19” kit, coronavirus package, or Medicare benefits related to the virus. They ask for personal information such as bank account, Social Security or Medicare numbers. Report this to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
- Watch out for emails and text messages that appear to be coming from the IRS that request money or personal information. Don't open them or click on attachments or links. The IRS reminds taxpayers that they aren’t going to call you asking to verify or provide your financial information so you can get an economic impact payment (stimulus check) or your refund faster. Go to IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.
Here is where to report scams:
* About unwanted robocalls and robotexts and spoofing, file complaints with the FCC online or call the FTC at 1-877-382-4357.
* Report caller ID Spoofing to the Federal Communications Commission either online or by phone at 1-888-225-5322. For more information about scam calls and texts, visit the FCC Consumer Help Center and the FCC Scam Glossary.
* You can also file a complaint about such scams at fcc.gov/complaints.
* The Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration have posted consumer warnings about fake websites and phishing emails used to promote bogus products.
* Report Phishing and Online Scams on IRS.gov page.
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Spam vs. Phishing
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- Phishing: emails and text messages that look like they are from a company you know and trust. Phishing messages steal login credentials and other sensitive data. Phishing emails and text messages tell a story to trick you into clicking a link or attachment.
- Smishing stands for SMS (short message service). They are deceptive text messages sent to one’s smart devices. Smishing scam messages may seem like they are from your bank. Do not respond, even if the message requests that you "text STOP" to end messages. Make sure your smart device OS (operating system) and security apps are up to date.
- Spamming is not as dangerous as Phishing. It is a tactic to sell goods and services by sending unsolicited emails.
- Spoofing is when a caller deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity. Scammers often use neighbor spoofing so it appears that an incoming call is from a local number, or spoof a number from a company or a government agency that you may already know and trust. View a sample spoofing video here.