It appears that a lot of scams are going to be related (whether directly or tangentially) to COVID-19 for quite some time. Here is a quick rundown of a few text message and phone call-based schemes making the rounds.
One text scam that plays directly on the fear response tells the potential victim this: “Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested.” It includes a link to a website that will likely attempt to obtain personal and/or financial information.
While it’s possible that someone you know personally might send you such a message (as in, “Hey I tested positive, you should get tested, too”) WITHOUT including a website link, there is no centralized virus database sending such messages anonymously.
With widespread loss of income and the ensuing anxiety, please remember that bogus offers for free gift cards are going to spike, and might seem appealing or “worth a shot” if you find yourself in need. One example recently spotted in Northwest Indiana says this: “Important! [Name], Seems you didn’t open the door when we tried to deliver your $1000 Wal-Mart voucher. Claim it now [link].”
This message is interesting in that it appears to contain the actual recipient’s first name, but don’t be fooled. First, having a first name matched up with a mobile phone number is no great feat these days, since SOME of everyone’s information is almost certainly already available. Additionally, even in a global emergency, Walmart is never going to give away such large amounts to random people. Why would they? Don’t be tricked with the little “we came to your door” angle, either. Nobody came to your door (as they SHOULDN’T right now). Once again, that link is going to lead you to a website designed to steal your banking or other information.
A recent telephone (robocall) scam uses this prerecorded message: “Hello. This is a call from the Social Security Administration. During the 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 activity found on your social. We are contacting you as this case is critical and needs your urgent attention,” and includes a phone number for the victim to call.
If you analyze the text of this message, it’s an obvious scam. The SSA doesn’t refer to payments as “your socials.” Or to “activity found on your social.” That’s a message concocted by someone who isn’t quite familiar with how the Social Security system works. If you call the number, however, you’ll end up speaking to someone who is extremely familiar with talking people into revealing account numbers, Social Security numbers, passwords, and everything else you don’t want to hand over to a crook. Remember: they can make caller ID say anything they want it to. The same rules apply during a pandemic as any other time, but expect the frequency to increase, and for old schemes to be given a coronavirus twist.