Here’s what to know about the COVID-19 scams out there, as well as some precautionary measures you can take to avoid being scammed during the coronavirus outbreak.
You can’t buy a COVID-19 “cure”
Many of the COVID-19 scams going around involve attempts by companies and individuals to sell products they claim to prevent or cure the novel coronavirus. Scammers are peddling fake remedies ranging from colloidal silver to cow manure. But the novel coronavirus is exactly that — new — and there is no known cure yet. Vaccine trials are underway, but any scalable results are months away at best.
Watch out for scam emails and texts, too
Phishing schemes, in which a scammer sends an email or text meant to trick you into handing over your personal info, have gotten pretty sophisticated in recent years, and can even include elements like official imagery or email addresses that look similar to email addresses used by official businesses. Likewise, phone calls and texts from scammers pretending to be official businesses may include information like your name or phone number to try to convince you that they’re real.
To spot COVID-19 email and text scams, look for generic greetings (like “Hello, Sir/Madame”), requests for confirmation of personal information, or emails related to updating your billing details to judge whether or not an email from a company is legitimate. If a message’s language seems urgent, as though it’s attempting to pressure you into giving up your information to avert some sort of data disaster, it could very well be fake. If you receive a suspicious email from a particular company or even a friend or your employer, contact them separately via phone to verify the message before replying or otherwise acting on it.
The FTC recommends consumers practice proper online security, which includes backing up personal data and using two-factor authentication whenever possible to make it harder for scammers to gain access to your accounts, even if they do manage to figure out your username, password, or other personally identifiable information.
Still, if you think you gave out your information inadvertently, or that someone already has your identifiable information — like your Social Security number or bank account information — you can visit the FTC’s Identity Theft site to protect yourself from further harm and alert businesses that your identity has been compromised.
Please remember, representatives from WSCU, along with other legitimate financial institutions, will never reach out to you over the phone or via email or text message to request sensitive information, such as your PIN, account password, secure access code, drivers license number, full Social Security number, account number, card number or online banking user ID.
Fraudsters are getting better at gathering information to help you believe their claim. Even if the person contacting you has information about a financial institution, such as their address, phone number or even name of an employee, does not mean it’s a legitimate caller.
The best thing to do if you are on the phone with someone who is claiming to be from a financial institution, yet is requesting sensitive information, is to hang up the phone and call that financial institution directly. Our HelpDesk can be reached at 801-399-9728.