From cures for coronavirus to phishing emails, phony websites and unemployment fraud, scammers are taking advantage of consumers as the virus continues to impact millions of people.
The potential of misinformation and attempts at fraud during times of high-profile global events and public health threats is high. Consumers should exercise caution when reacting to information and solicitations for donations associated with the coronavirus pandemic.
How to avoid coronavirus scams:
- Consumers should exercise extreme caution when responding to individual pleas for financial assistance such as those posted on social media, crowd funding websites, or in an email, even if it appears to originate from a trusted source.
- Be cautious of emails or websites that claim to provide information, pictures, and videos.
- Do not open unsolicited (spam) emails or click on the links or attachments in those emails – even if they say you may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19.
- Never reveal personal or financial information in an email or to an untrusted website.
- Do not go to an untrusted or unfamiliar website to view the event or information regarding it.
- Malicious websites often imitate a legitimate website, but the URL may use a variation in spelling or a different domain (i.e., .com vs .org).
In addition to the potential of false information scammers are using stolen Social Security numbers and other personal information to apply for and receive unemployment benefits in their victims’ names. Victims may not learn they were targeted until they apply for unemployment themselves, are notified by their employer or receive a bill from the IRS for taxes they owe on benefits they never received.
Although this scam can take many forms, a scammer typically files an unemployment claim using a stolen identity and then gets the benefits, typically on debit cards or by using a money mule.
Phishing emails and texts claiming to be from an agency that offers assistance in filing for unemployment are another form. The message might say a claim is incomplete and will demand someone provide their Social Security or credit card number before it can be finalized.
Protect yourself from these scams by avoiding:
- Scam websites claiming to be able to help people file and collect unemployment benefits quickly.
- Phone and text scams claiming someone’s unemployment benefits have been suspended until they respond by supplying personal information, such as debit card or bank account numbers.
- Jobseeker cons in which scammers claim to be employers offering you a job in order to collect your personal information or steal money.
If you knowingly collect benefits based on false or inaccurate information that you intentionally provided when you filed your claim, you are committing fraud. Unemployment Insurance fraud is punishable by law and violators could face a number of serious penalties and consequences.