Contact us today to ignite your brand!
Call us at:
(801) 901-8408
Or, fill in the fields below and we’ll contact you:
  • Date Format: MM slash DD slash YYYY
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
All Articles

How to Avoid the Top 4 Covid-19 Scams

By

While the nation ramps up to fight the pandemic, Covid-19 scams are at work to steal your money and personal information. We scoured the web to find the top coronavirus scams and detail them here. Below, we identify the most prevalent scams in each of the top four categories – phone, text/phone apps, email, and online ecommerce sites. Learn what to look for and what you can do to protect your wallet and personal information from would-be scam artists.

For many, the desire to help in times of crisis is a natural response. And, with so many of us focused on the health aspects of this crisis, it is easy to forget criminals are actively conspiring to steal our money and personal information. We found the most clever scams being perpetrated by phone, text and online, and include audio and actual emails to keep you from being the next victim.

As a marketing agency, our team reviews hundreds of emails, product descriptions and website pages on a daily basis. Spotting a slight grammatical error, an errant typo or unusual url structure is second nature to us. While these indicators often signal a scam, they are frequently overlooked by the untrained eye – making you the ideal victim. 

Disaster Scams On The Rise

Security solutions provider, Check Point reports over 16,000 coronavirus-related domains were registered since the start of January, with a ten-fold increase of all domain names purchased in recent weeks over previous weeks averages. Many of these sites have been found to be suspicious or malicious and some are known Covid-19 scams. Data also shows an increase in cyber-crime and social chatter in direct proportion to coronavirus searches. 

Covid19 Spam Website Purchase IncreaseSource: Check Point

Covid-19 Scams, Phone Audio Examples

Methods for coronavirus related fraud are not limited to online sources, instead they are coming through various methods of communication and play to people’s fear and employ emotional buying tactics. If you receive an unsolicited robocall, the Federal Communications Commission advises it is better to hang up. Pressing any buttons may illicit future calls. It is unlikely an illegal robocaller will abide by your request to be “removed from the list.” Scammers may also spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering.

Here are audio examples of fraud secured by the FCC: 

Coronavirus Supply Delivery Scam

Audio Transcript: [The Coronavirus] Response Act has made coronavirus testing more accessible immediately. If you want to receive a free testing kit delivered overnight to your home, press 1. If you do not want your free testing, press 2. 

Social Security Covid-19 Scam

Audio Transcript: Hello this is a call from the Social Security Administration. During these difficult times of the coronavirus, we regret to inform you that we have got an order to suspend your socials immediately within 24 hours due to suspicious and fraudulent activities found on your socials. We are contacting you as this case is critical and needs your urgent attention. To get more information about this case please call immediately on our department number 888-991-XXXX. I repeat 888-991-XXXX. (

Coronavirus Delivery Scam

Audio Transcript: Dear customer: Due to coronavirus outbreak, we deliver a wide range of sanitizers, handwash, toilet papers, and face masks at your doorstep to safeguard you and your family from coronavirus. No need to visit stores. Get delivery in 24 hours. To order press 1. For more knowledge and safety tips about coronavirus, press 2. 

Illegal Text Messages, Apps and Coronavirus Fraud

Either you or someone you know has likely received an unsolicited text message from an unknown number. Recent spikes in coronavirus related messages are seen along three main types: giveaways, alerts and selling aides or cures.

Giveaway messages ask that you sign up for something and may be sent in conjunction with a fear-based message like a claim that banks are closing in an attempt to get you to quickly act. Alert messages may ask you to type back “yes” in response to a question, which triggers additional texts with product or spam links. Other messages may offer a free test kit or claim to sell an in-demand item like hand sanitizer or masks. It is estimated that ten of thousands to low hundred of thousands of coronavirus related spam messages are being sent. Do not click on unsolicited links, suspicious links or reply to them.

Covid19 Spam Text Messages 1 Covid19 Spam Text Messages 2 Covid19 Spam Text Messages 3

Source: Adaptive Mobile

Spam can be reported to your carrier by forwarding the message to the phone number 7726 (SPAM) This helps your carrier identify and block more of these types of messages in the future. Here’s how to filter and block messages on an iPhone and how to block a phone number on an Android phone.

The Justice Department reports an increase in phone apps designed to track the spread of Covid-19 which inserts malware into your device to collect personal information and compromise your device security. 

One malicious app, found by Lookout, thought to originate out of Libya, is designed to look like the Johns Hopkins virus tracker. The spyware allows for tracking calls, texts and remote operation of the users microphone and camera.

Covid 19 Scam Johns Hopkins Mobile App 2

Source:Lookout.com

 

Security provider, Zscaler illustrates a fake app example below, claiming to be from Harvard University scientists.

Covid 19 Scam Mobile App

Source: Zscaler Security

Disaster Brings Hard Hitting Email Scams

Disasters bring the need for charity donations which is where you often see email current Covid-19 scams at work. Typical email schemes will come in one of three varieties – phishing, malware/ransomware, charitable donation solicitation. Seek out known charitable organizations and be wary of similarly named organizations which may be a hoax, for example they may use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of cdc.gov. A “.org” website address can be obtained by anyone; only “.gov” and “.edu” sites require verification. The FBI also advises to be on the look out for fake emails claiming to originate from the CDC.

The Covid-19 scam example below, provided by the FTC, shows how using the WHO logo and the current coronavirus disaster, could be just enough to catch someone off guard to click the blue button download and trigger the malware, ransomware or key-stroke logger. Sophisticated virus software can remain dormant in your computer until activated at a later date, and can be attached to word documents, making the source infection difficult to determine. A closer look at the email will show several typos, including the subject line, and a “from” email address that is not from the WHO.

Covid 19 Scam WHO Email

Source: Federal Trade Commission

COVID-19 Scams: Online and eCommerce

Sophisticated scammers use technology tools to know what breakout product search terms are in high demand. Be on the lookout for new online sellers claiming to have “coronavirus masks”, hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, Covid-19 cures or other in demand items. The FTC is reporting a spike in undelivered goods for online purchases from new websites and new seller names on popular shopping sites like eBay and Amazon.

The FTC and FDA are actively issuing warning letters to sellers of unapproved or misbranded products claiming to treat or prevent Coronavirus. These companies may receive only a warning letter and sometimes fines, but often the fines pale in comparison to the profits gained from illegal claims. Claims must be backed by evidence, as legally required. Products touted as cures include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver. 

As of March 25th, and according to the FTC website, “there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.” 

The seven companies receiving warning letters by the FTC and/or FDA on March 9th are:

  • Vital Silver
  • Aromatherapy Ltd.
  • N-ergetics
  • GuruNanda, LLC
  • Vivify Holistic Clinic
  • Herbal Amy LLC
  • The Jim Bakker Show

Shopping for a killer deal while you are stuck at home? Many of these unbelievably priced deals are either stolen or are false claims. It is all too easy to create a new seller account name. Watch for new sellers without reviews, or reviews about products that do not match the product being currently sold. Remember, if the price is too good to be true, it probably is.

Covid 19 Scam eCommerce Shopping

Source: Check Point

How to Report Fraud

If you see fraud similar to the above examples being attempted, or if you have been a victim of a fraud, The Justice Department asks that you report it. 

FBI at:  https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx  or 412-432-4000,

COVID-19 Fraud Coordinator, Senior Litigation Counsel Shaun Sweeney at USAPAW.COVID19@usdoj.gov or 412-644-3500,or

Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.

Simple Steps to Safeguard Your Wallet

Be mindful in the days and weeks ahead. New schemes will be developed to capitalize on disaster-related fears and growing trends. The recently reported door-to-door selling of Covid-19 test kits is just one example. Use these simple steps to safeguard your wallet. 

  1. Source product, health and safety information from reliable sources – established news organizations, known sites and government sites, as identified by .gov at the end of the url.
  2. Do not click on unfamiliar links. Instead search for the product or service and select from listings. Look to trusted brands and seek out verified company sites using your browser.
  3. Be wary of new sellers on trusted sites like Amazon and eBay – especially those offering products no one else has in stock. 
  4. Trusted organizations will not ask for personal or protected information like bank account, address and social security numbers in outbound calls. Look up their number and initiate the call to verify authenticity.
  5. Finally, the old adage remains, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

At Firetoss, we only work with companies that share our high ethical standards and actively guard against false claims. Our skilled marketing teams are great at getting the word out, but times of crisis often bring misinformation. Sharing accurate and trustworthy information becomes even more important in these times. If you found something in this article helpful, please share this story. It’s great a reminder of what to look for and guard against. 

Have you seen a new scam? We want to hear about it; contact us. Let’s get through this difficult time, together.

You can find more information at these trusted sites.

We use cookies to ensure that we give you the best experience on our website. See our Privacy Policy for more information. By continuing, you agree that cookies are good, and delicious, and you agree to their use and/or delivery of them.