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Watch For Scams Newsletter. Coronavirus schemes
June 20, 2020

Coronavirus schemes

Watch For Scams is dedicated to helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

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Coronavirus schemes

People isolated at home, alone, may be safer from contracting the Coronavirus, but will also be more vulnerable to email and phone phishing. With no other recourse to outside entertainment and with faster broadband speeds, people are spending more and more time on the internet. Spammers have already begun to take full advantage.

Thanks to increased pandemic-inspired traffic, Google now blocks more than 100 million emails a day, many of which are specifically related to Coronavirus. Google says that COVID-19 has become the largest subject of spam mail. Emails attempting to impersonate politicians or authoritative sources like the World Health Organization try to convince recipients to fund specific causes or download a particular software, thus enabling the aggressors to swindle you of funds, collect sensitive personal data such as credit card information or login details, or implant malware or other harmful software on your computer.

A new phone scam has been identified in which phone call recipients are promised special access to a Coronavirus vaccine. A robotic voice promises to put you on an exclusive wait list that will reserve a supply of the vaccine, a vaccine which, by the way, has not yet been developed. Preying on common anxieties and fears of COVID-19, these scammers ask for a deposit in order to hold your vaccine “reservation.”

The scam is effective. By using pervasive fears and legitimate global health concerns against victims who are more isolated than usual, they are able to extract more money and personal information.

Protecting your privacy

While it may be intimidating or frightening to consider these tactics employed to take advantage of unsuspecting victims, there are usually clear warning signs that a scam is afoot.

It is important to remember that no legitimate phone call from a government agency will require you to provide sensitive information, such as credit card details and social security number. In the case of this new Coronavirus phone scam, the robocallers attempt to persuade you using information that can be easily disproved with a bit of basic research. They may claim, for example, that antibiotics can be taken to stop the virus, when in fact, antibiotics only address bacterial, not viral, infections.

Spam emails often open with a generic greeting like “Dear Sir and/or Madame,” or “Hi Dear,” for example, which should automatically put you on guard. If they also include a link to make a payment, you should certainly do additional research, which will quickly reveal the email to be false. Remember that you can always Google the sender of an email - oftentimes spammers make up generic aliases, such as “John Williams.” A quick Google search can reveal whether or not they are real.

Additional pre-emptive steps to take in order to protect yourself include using security software and updating your operating system frequently, enabling multi-factor authentication to prevent your accounts from being hacked, and backing up your data to ensure that you have a safe, protected copy in case of the worst eventuality.

If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam you should promptly report it to the IC3's website at The IC3's complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.

Remember - always watch for scams!


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