While there have been many uplifting stories of people helping one another during the coronavirus crisis, scammers and other criminals are also trying to exploit the situation.
These scams take on many forms:
- Scammers may pose as representatives of the government to try to get access to your financial information via phone calls, emails, text messages, and other online phishing scams.
- Scammers may pretend to be friends and ask for financial help online or via text.
- Scammers may claim to have information about stimulus checks from the government. Details are still being worked out about how these funds will be distributed. The Federal Trade Commission warns that you should not respond to any emails or texts about these checks. The government will not ask you to pay anything upfront to get this money or call and ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number.
- Unscrupulous online sellers on places like Facebook Marketplace may claim to have in-demand products, like toilet paper, cleaning supplies, medication and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Scammers may offer vaccines, pills, essential oil blends, juices and elixirs that they claim can treat or cure the coronavirus COVID-19. There are currently no cures or treatments for the disease. For the most up-to-date information about COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Some scammers are sending phishing emails that appear to be from the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps have been created. These sites appear to share virus-related information, but their real purpose is to gain access to your devices until you pay a fee to unlock them.
- Fake charities and GoFundMe pages have been set up to seek donations for COVID-19-related causes. The FTC has tips for how to avoid charity scams here. You can also research charities through organizations such as BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, CharityWatch and GuideStar.
One of our attorneys recently received a scam phone call to his personal cell phone. The caller claimed to be from the Social Security Administration and said the attorney’s Social Security number had been suspended due to COVID-19 and “unusual activity.”
The attorney recognized the call as a scam and hung up immediately, which is what the FTC says you should do if you receive a call like this:
“Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any number. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.”
N.C. Attorney General Josh Stein hosted a virtual town hall on COVID-19 scams last week. You can watch here:
His office also published a one-page guide on how North Carolinians can protect themselves from these scams. Download a copy of the PDF.
The N.C. Department of Justice is also going after businesses and scammers for price gouging. Please report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home.
To report fraud:
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at [email protected]
- File a report with the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
- Submit cyber scam complaints here https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
If you’re unsure whether a communication (email, letter, phone call or text message) you have received is legitimate, please contact your attorney or paralegal before responding or taking any action.