Scammers are taking advantage of uncertainty surrounding the Coronavirus (COVID-19). Fraudsters are setting up websites to sell bogus products and creating fake email, texts and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information. Investment frauds ridiculously claim a company’s products or services will be used to help stop the Coronavirus outbreak.
The emails and posts may even be promoting awareness and prevention tips, and fake information about cases in your neighborhood, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). They may also be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.
Here are some tips from the FTC to help you keep the scammers at bay:
- Don’t click on links from sources you do not know. It could download a virus on your computer or mobile device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
- Don’t provide personal information. Always consider why someone wants your information and if it is appropriate.
- Verify a sender by independently checking their email address. It is insufficient to check an email address using an email reply to see if your message is delivered. The email could be from a cybercriminal’s account.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus.
- For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the CDC at https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html and the World Health Organization (WHO) at https://www.who.int/emergencies/diseases/novel-coronavirus-2019.
- Ignore offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment or cure claims for the Coronavirus, ask yourself: would you be hearing about it for the first time through an ad or a sales pitch?
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or websites. Do not let anyone rush you into donating. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card or by wiring money, do not do it.
- Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning about online promotions, including social media, claiming that the products and services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect or cure the Coronavirus, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in values as a result.
The SEC has issued an investor alert to be on the lookout for Coronavirus-related investment scams that use the latest news developments to lure investors into scams.
The promotions often take the form of so-called “research reports” and make predictions of a specific “target price.” The SEC warns investors they may lose significant amounts of money if they invest in a company that makes inaccurate or unreliable claims, and you may not be able to sell your shares, if trading in the company is suspended.
The SEC says that when investing in any company that claims to focus on Coronavirus-related products and services, carefully research the investment and keep in mind that investment scam artists often exploit the latest crisis to line their own pockets.
Contact your local American Federal securities-licensed Banker, if you have a question about an investment product or service. Report any suspicious Coronavirus-related investment scams to the SEC at https://www.sec.gov/tcr.
Criminals Pretending to be WHO
Criminals are disguising themselves as the World Health Organization (WHO) to steal money and sensitive information. WHO says cybercriminals are preying on people’s fear with phishing emails claiming to have advice on protective safety measures.
WHO will never:
- ask you to log in to view safety information
- email attachments you did not request
- ask you to visit a link outside www.who.int
- conduct lotteries or offer prizes, grants, certificates or funding through email
- ask you to donate directly to emergency response plans or funding appeals
Be aware that criminals use email, websites, phone calls, text messages and fax messages for their scams. You can verify if communication is legitimate by contacting WHO directly.