• March 19, 2020
  • Posted by GE Credit Union

Coronavirus Scams: What to Know and How to Protect Yourself

There’s no doubt the country, and world, are experiencing unprecedented times. While many are staying home and practicing social distancing, unfortunately, scammers and cyber-criminals are taking advantage of this opportunity. It’s important to be aware of potential scams related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) to avoid any potential impact to your personal information and financial accounts.

Scams to be aware of during the COVID-19 pandemic

Stimulus check scams

As part of the federal government’s response to the Coronavirus, many consumers will receive a stimulus check and according to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), most people will start receiving their checks within three weeks. These will be sent either via direct-deposit information from prior tax filings, or alternatively you’ll receive a paper check. Some consumers are already reporting they’ve received calls, text, emails, and fake checks from scammers.

Keep in mind, the IRS will not call and ask you to verify payment details; do not give out your bank account, debit card number, PayPal account information, or other personal information. If you receive a call, text, or email, don't engage with the scammer or click on any links. Visit the IRS’s website at: irs.gov/coronavirus, for updates.

Claims of a coronavirus antidote or cure

During past crises similar to the Coronavirus pandemic, companies have misled consumers by offering products to allegedly prevent or cure the illness. Due to this, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration teamed up to identify companies making Coronavirus claims.1 Take a moment to review this list of identified companies to ensure you don’t become a victim.

If you receive a pop-up online or an email about a product to keep you safe from COVID-19, do not click on the ad or purchase the product. In addition to wasting your money, you’re potentially putting yourself at risk by visiting a website that could potentially collect your personal information or harm your computer. At this time, there is not a known cure for COVID-19; visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to learn about how to protect yourself, your home, and your family.

Phishing emails

New information about COVID-19 is circulating daily and scammers are taking advantage of the situation by sending emails encouraging recipients to provide personal information or click on malicious links. This is especially a concern as more Americans are working from home following guidelines provided by federal and local governments. For example, the FTC has received reports of emails that imitate an email from an employer ask for login credentials to gain access to work related accounts and potentially the employer’s internal systems.

Use these guidelines to quickly identify a phishing email:

  • You receive an email from an unfamiliar person or business, asking you to update or verify your contact information.
  • An email you receive does not address you by your proper name or includes spelling errors and grammatical mistakes.
  • The email or website address (URL) appears to be different from what you’re used to.
  • The email encourages you to act fast to take advantage of a prize or giveaway.

The World Health Organization (WHO), one of the most reliable sources for information about the Coronavirus, has recently been a target by scammers who try to imitate the brand. Visit WHO’s website to learn more about emails from criminals pretending to be WHO

Illegitimate charities asking for donations

Also attempting to capitalize on the Coronavirus health crisis, are scammers setting up and promoting illegitimate charities or crowd source funding. Before donating money or gift cards, it’s best to do your homework. Don’t let anyone rush you into donating before fully vetting the organization or initiative. Take a moment to review helpful tips from the FTC about how to donate wisely and avoid charity scams.  

During these uncertain times, remain vigilant and aware to prevent yourself from falling victim. Continue to monitor your bank accounts using Online Banking and mobile app services. If you detect an issue, report the problem immediately.

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