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Watch out for these 6 coronavirus-related scams

How to protect yourself
from online scammers

Wash your hands. Stand six feet apart. Flatten the curve. Wear a mask.

Consumers are bombarded with information as the coronavirus spreads throughout the nation and the world. And scammers and fraudsters follow the headlines.  

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have been tracking these scammers and warned consumers to be aware of scams specifically related to the coronavirus health pandemic.

Stimulus check scams
Many Americans will receive government-issued stimulus checks aimed at providing some relief to cash-strapped adults. These checks will either be deposited directly into the consumer's credit union or bank account, or if a consumer did not provide account information, checks will be mailed directly to consumers. Scammers will contact customers promising a stimulus check but requesting up-front payment, credit union or bank account information or social security numbers. 

How to protect yourself:
Government agencies will never call consumers regarding these checks, and the vast majority of consumers don’t need to do anything to receive them. If you've filed taxes in the past two years, the IRS already has the information it needs. Don’t provide any personal information over the phone. Your financial institution will never ask for personal information via phone or email. Don't respond to these emails and hang up on calls.

High-demand cleaning supplies and protective masks  
With cleaning and disinfecting top of mind right now, scammers will promise high-demand items like hand sanitizers, disinfectants, household cleaning supplies, and masks but then never send the products. Also, be aware of fake cleaning services that promise to disinfect your home and rid it of the coronavirus.

How to protect yourself:
These products and services are fake. If you need cleaning supplies, buy them in your community or through Amazon (after you’ve researched if it’s a third-party Amazon seller). Call your local cleaning company if you would like extra cleaning in your home.

Testing kits and vaccines
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there is no treatment or preventives for COVID-19 currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, and testing kits are only available at medical facilities.

How to protect yourself:
Don’t fall for emails or calls with the promise of COVID-19 at-home testing kits, vaccines or anything related to cures. What’s more, tricksters might also try and get consumers to invest in fraudulent companies who claim to be developing or selling these items. Be aware of what you see online, in your email and via text. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.

Employment scams
With over 10 million Americans applying for unemployment in March, employment scams are a dime a dozen. Scammers create job ads to lure unemployed consumers to fake jobs.  The scammers will wire money or send a fake check to consumers and ask them to purchase goods, gift cards, or other items and then send them back to them.

How to protect yourself:
Don’t answer an ad that does not clearly indicate who you will be working for. Don’t ever send money. A legitimate job won’t require funds to get hired or ask you to buy anything in advance.

Imposter scams
Scammers posing as government or health officials contact consumers by phone or email for COVID-19 testing results or to offer information on people close to them that have the virus. The scam involves requesting money. Phishing emails trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.

How to protect yourself:
Don’t answer calls or open emails from senders you don’t recognize. No one from the CDC or government agencies will ever call you to offer testing, coronavirus products, or for information about a loved one. Don’t be bullied, even if the imposter using threatening language or says they will contact law enforcement if you don’t oblige. The best thing to do is hang up or delete the email.

Remote-working scams and device hijacking
More than 90% of consumers are under “stay-at-home” orders and many schools are conducting online learning. This means workers and students are using home technology services and possibly personal devices to log in to online platforms and video conferencing software. This opens up new opportunities for scammer and fraudsters to steal personal information, take over devices or listen in on conversations.

How to protect yourself: Restrict access to meetings or online learning with passwords and don’t share links to meetings in a public online setting.  Make sure you have firewall software installed and never click on pop-up ads that appear to be from a software vendor.

Internet Crime Compliant Center (IC3)
Federal Trade Commission

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