Like clockwork, any time a major event, disaster or
emergency occurs, scams proliferate.
The coronavirus situation is no different.
Already, the worst people in the world are using people’s (completely
understandable) confusion and fear to steal money and personal information.
Here is a look at some scams that have already
been reported, and some that will likely start to show up in your inbox, your
text messages or even your doorstep.
Email scams are already happening. Some attempt to
mimic a message from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or
the World Health Organization (WHO), instructing recipients to click a link or
open a file attachment to access new information about the virus. This leads
the victim either to a website designed to harvest personal information, or a
malware infection on the victim’s computer.
Remember that these organizations are not going to
email you out of the blue because they do not have your email address on
file. You can sign up for email updates about the coronavirus from the CDC
by visiting https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/index.html,
but the messages they send will never contain attached files or instructions to
turn over personal information.
The CDC and WHO will also not be sending offers
for you to purchase vaccines or cures, or asking for donations, and they especially
won’t be asking you to send cash, wire money or load up prepaid credit cards
and relay the card information to them. Neither will any legitimate
organization soliciting donations for anything related to the virus. If you
want to help, use established charities you’ve already heard of, and contact
Apart from fake emails imitating the CDC or WHO,
do not believe any offer of a cure, vaccine or preventative being sold
online, whether through email, a website or social network. There is no
FDA-approved drug or treatment for COVID-19 right now, and there is not likely
to be one for quite some time. Of course, this may change at any time (and
hopefully sooner than later), but when a treatment and/or vaccine become
available, you will hear about it from official sources.
The economic fallout from the coronavirus
situation has already begun. It’s impossible to predict what will happen, but
there are entire industries whose entire business model hinges on getting
people to leave their homes and go to a different location, whether to
vacation, to eat, or to be entertained. Manufacturing will also be impacted, as
social distancing practices force cutbacks. Many job losses and layoffs will
This means work-at-home scams will likely start
showing up. These probably won’t be anything new, just versions of old scams
that have been circulating for decades. Remember that job opportunities are not
going to simply show up out of the blue via email or text message. But you also
must be wary of jobs you find by searching online; any offer that involves
“processing” payments or shipments is an attempt to rope you into a “money
mule” scheme or money laundering operation.
There have also been reports of text messages
promising a free iPhone 11 because of the virus. These contain a link to a
website set up to do everything BUT put a free phone in your hands.
There have also been reports of people knocking on doors, claiming to be testing for the virus. This is a distraction-type burglary scheme. Even if they appear to be dressing the part, do not be taken in. At least in the U.S., door-to-door testing is not being performed by any official entity at this time, and it is highly unlikely that it will be at any point. Don’t be fooled. In addition to avoiding being burglarized, you want to avoid close contact with anyone outside your immediate household as much as possible.