How to identify
COVID 19 rip-off scams…
As the world battles the Coronavirus pandemic, scammers find new ways to trick or otherwise take advantage of people, both online and in person. Were here to bring you some information in hopes it will help you from becoming a victim.
With all the information being reported on the COVID-19 virus, it’s difficult to differentiate between actual facts versus “fake news” being presented as facts. The information below will help you spot some of the common scams going on right now.
First, it’s important to know where the scammers are striking so you can be more proactive about protecting yourself. The following are different mediums that are being used:
- Internet (through websites and/or social media applications)
- Phones (calling or texting)
- In-person (showing up at your door)
What is clear, based upon the above list is that there aren’t really any “100% safe” zones … and this is true regardless of whether or not there is a global pandemic going on. Nevertheless, there are certain types of scams that are currently more prevalent and we will take a look at a few of those below.
Phishing and malware are always issues that you should be watching out for, however Ars Technica recently reported that “[e]mails and websites are promising vital information about keeping safe from the coronavirus” when in fact such emails and websites “are scams that push malware, ransomware, and disinformation; attempt to steal passwords and personal information; and conduct espionage operations by hackers working for nation-states.” The Ars Technica article provided some very useful information about the problematic Android app, email phishing scams and known malicious websites.
Hoarders are just hoarding all the TP, wipes and sanitizer for their personal use. Price gouging is another HUGE problem being reported right now. An example of price gouging is where someone buys products at fair market price, say $4.00 for a small bottle of hand sanitizer, waits for the product to become scarce, and then turns around and tries to re-sell it privately to desperate people at a heavily marked up price. That same $4.00 bottle of hand sanitizer is now $25.00 or higher, for ONE bottle! Sadly, it’s not just private citizens playing the price gouging game. Businesses too are inflating prices of scarce products in effort to make a buck.
Fortunately, many states have laws against such actions and state Attorneys General offices have been asking consumers to file complaints with their offices so that they may attempt to stop it. In fact, KHOU 11 reported that “4000 price-gouging complaints have been filed in Texas during COVID-19 emergency.” That’s a TON of complains since their Governor declared the emergency on March 13th.
If you are using an Andriod phone, be sure to read the Ars Technical article that relates to a problematic app that promises access to a cool map that will give you real time virus tracking when in fact it is actually laced with ransomware.
Beyond the apps on your phone, the scammers will be calling. Fox Carolina reported that Oconee County, South Carolina deputies have been warning people about a possible new scam where “scammers are pretending to represent a coronavirus hotline” asking citizens for personal information. It goes without saying that you should never give out personal information over the phone. If you don’t actually know who is calling … best be is to assume they are a scammer. You can always ask for their information, organization name and phone number and then do more investigation after you get off the phone to see if that person or organization is legitimate or not.
KFDA/News Channel 10 reported that the Amarillo Police Department had been receiving calls about scammers and advised people that “you should never give money to someone before getting a product” and to avoid taking a “strangers” word.
Believe it or not, officials are NOT going to be showing up at your door offering to do Covid-19 tests. Florida based news publication The Start reported that “[s]everal South Florida law enforcement agencies are issuing alerts about people dressed in white lab coats and masks impersonating Center for Disease Control and Prevention workers” apparently offering free COVID-19 tests The advice provided by law enforcement in such a situation was to not let the people in and to “[c]lose the door and call 911.” We always warn children about “stranger danger” but that is sage advice for adults too.
RESOURCES FROM THE AUTHORITIES
Below are a few links to formal governmental agencies who are providing information to the public about Covid-19 and scammers. Consumers are encouraged to obtain their facts from appropriate authoritative sources:
If you have a scam to report, AFTER you report it to the legal authorities, consider posting your personal experience on Ripoff Report. It’s always free to share your story. Together we can help warn others about scams and provide guidance to others on what they can watch out for!
WARNING! Do not buy masks from unknown unreliable websites!
Do not respond to emails soliciting you to buy masks!
Only order face masks from known reliable sources. If buying from Amazon, make sure it is sold and distributed by Amazon. It is suggested you should buy masks from any known drug store or from your local grocery store pharmacy. They should have them in stock soon.
Watch this video! Responding to unsolicited emails about buying masks could get you makes made by the people in the video below.
Also – giving your credit or debit card information to these people will likely cause your card to be compromised.