Unfortunately, the global pandemic has inspired scammers to prey on people while we’re already worried and vulnerable. Here are the latest scams to hit the scene—and some tips to avoid them.
Social media scams
On top of unending photos of the banana bread everyone’s baking, social media has been full of posts offering fake COVID-19 cures, phony coronavirus tests, and false vaccination information.
Between March and May 2020, researchers at the University of California, San Diego, spotted nearly 2,000 fraudulent social media posts related to fake health products and financial scams related to the pandemic.
How to avoid social media scams
- Avoid deals that are too good to be true: If the price is super-cheap, the product promises miracle results, or promos feature limited stock and rapid, bulk sales, it’s probably a scam.
- Be wary of imported goods: When it comes to health care solutions, imported COVID-19 tests, medicine, vaccines, or cures shouldn’t be trusted. In addition to being risky, it’s probably illegal to sell unvetted coronavirus health products from abroad.
- Don’t buy directly from social media: Sellers that use direct messaging or apps like WhatsApp or Skype to peddle their wares, are most likely frauds. If you can’t find a legit store, just hit “exit.”
Being stuck at home has made everyone more vulnerable to robocall scams. These scams tend to target older Americans in particular. Many of these phony callers pose as government agencies or charities—entities that people are likely to trust with personal and financial information.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports more than 131,000 complaints regarding pandemic-related scam calls. But that’s nothing compared to the more than three billion robocalls Americans have received.
How to avoid robocalls
- Don’t pick up: If you see a call from an unknown number, let it go to voicemail. If it’s a friend, they’ll leave you a message. If you find a computer-generated voice message, block the number and report it as a scam robocall.
- Filter scam calls out: Most mobile phones have a feature or app that lets you filter out unknown callers and numbers that are likely to be fraudulent robocalls. The FTC has a complete guide to help you block scam calls on Android, iOS, and landline phones.
Scam: Coronavirus emails
The new coronavirus impacts everyday life in surprising ways including its side effects on internet security. One trend is an uptick in scams posing as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), selling bogus cures, and offering great deals on the unofficial COVID-19 currency: toilet paper.
How to avoid this scam
Scare tactics aren’t new to scammers, but there’s plenty you can do to skip the scams and protect your personal data:
- Delete emails that claim to come from “official” sources. Instead, you should directly visit the websites of official sources like the CDC and the World Health Organization (WHO) for news and information.
- Never click links in emails from unknown senders. Killer deals are usually too good to be true and news of vaccinations won’t come in your email. Instead, you’ll learn about these from government officials, usually via the local or national news.