CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Online identity verification company Social Catfish is warning consumers about four common scams affecting people during the coronavirus outbreak.
The site based its report on current guidelines from the CDC and WHO and common scams used during H1N1, Ebola and Zika outbreaks.
The first scam the site mentions is family scams, which often occur at night and target older adults. According to a release, it may take the form of someone calling late in the evening and addressing the recipient as “grandpa” or “grandma” to gain the person’s trust before asking for a loan.
In this specific instance, the scammer may claim to have coronavirus, and is therefore in need of money to get by during a quarantine. The scammer will ask to be sent a gift card online right away to buy essentials, which preys upon the recipient’s emotions, the site stated.
According to the release, the best way to avoid this scam is to check the caller ID and to call a loved one at a trusted number to verify the person’s identity. Instead of sending money over the phone, only give money to someone in person, even if it is someone who is considered trustworthy.
A second scam to avoid involves people hawking products purported to either prevent or cure coronavirus.
If someone is trying to sell colloidal silver or aromatherapy to combat the virus, it is a scam, as natural products are not proven to fight the disease, the site stated.
Further, it said the Federal Trade Commission is compiling these fraudulent scams and products and has released a list of them. A better usage of money is to buy items that would be needed during an illness, such as tissues or face masks.
A third scam seeks to bait consumers into contributing money into a fund to develop a vaccine for coronavirus. According to Social Catfish, consumers may receive a “secret” call, email or text about a supposed government vaccine that only select people are privy to. It warns consumers not to give out credit card information to such solicitors.
Finally, the fourth scam involves phony emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization. These emails can look legitimate, and they may contain links to products claiming to help people, but the site stated that they are not from the organizations they are imitating.
Social Catfish advises people not to click on any email that claims to have a product to help cure coronavirus. Any legitimate cure will be published via news outlets, not through such emails. Further, consumers can look at the “reply to” email address and all hyperlinks in the email to determine its veracity. The links will lead to outside websites that are not secure and can collect financial data or download malware, according to the release.
Anyone encountering a coronavirus scam is advised to contact local law enforcement or file a complaint with the FTC. For consumers whose information was compromised, the site recommends that they should check their credit reports and request a credit freeze.