4/1/20 – Coronavirus Stimulus Scams Surface

Fraudsters haven’t wasted any time with scams related to the coronavirus. In response to the federal stimulus package,the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reported that fraudsters have deployed a variety of scams involving coronavirus stimulus checks. The BBB Scam Tracker has received several reports of coronavirus scams where individuals are contacted through text messages, social media post /messages, or phone calls.

One version of the scam targets seniors through a Facebook post informing them that they can get a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link within the post takes them to a bogus website claiming to be a government agency called the “U.S. Emergency Grants Federation” where they are asked to provide their Social Security Number under the guise of needing to verify their identity. In other versions, fraudsters claim individuals can get additional money –up to $150,000 in some cases. The victims are asked to pay a “processing fee” to receive a grant.

In North Carolina, there are several reports of a coronavirus scam in which potential victims received phone calls. Fraudsters told the victims they qualified for a $1,000 to $14,000 coronavirus stimulus payment; however,they must first pay a processing fee.

Coronavirus direct payments will likely be in the form of direct deposits or through U.S. Treasury checks. Fraudsters may look to seize this opportunity to create counterfeit U.S. Treasury checks to use in their scams. Knowing when the stimulus checks will be issued, fraudsters could steal U.S. Treasury checks out of the mail and attempt to cash the.  This was a common occurrence in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy as fraudsters counterfeited and forged U.S. Treasury checks representing the Federal Disaster Assistance checks.

Fraudsters may also attempt to scam you into providing your account number under the pretense of direct depositing the stimulus payment to your account.

Protect yourself:

  • Government agencies do not communicate through social media outlets, such as Facebook
  • Never pay a fee for a government grant. A government agency will never request an advanced processing fee to receive the grant
  • Beware of fake government agencies promoted by fraudsters. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies can be found at www.grants.gov

3/25/20 – Phishing Attacks – what you need to know

Cybercriminals are using concerns about the coronavirus to launch phishing attacks.

 What Happened?

 While COVID-19, or the novel coronavirus, is capturing attention around the world, cybercriminals are capitalizing on the public’s desire to learn more about the outbreak. There are reports of phishing scams that attempt to steal personal information or to infect your devices with malware, and ads that peddle false information or scam products.

In one example, a phishing email that used the logo of the CDC Health Alert Network claimed to provide a list of local active infections. Recipients were instructed to click on a link in the email to access the list. Next, recipients were asked to enter their email login credentials, which were then stolen.

 What Should You Do:

1. If you are looking for information on the coronavirus, visit known reputable websites like U.S. Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization.

2. Be on the lookout for phishing emails which may appear to come from a trusted source. Remember, you can look at the sender’s details – specifically the part of the email address after the ‘@’ symbol – in the ‘From’ line to see if it looks legitimate.

3. Be wary of emails or phone calls offering unexpected or unprompted information. Also be aware of emails from unfamiliar sources that contain links or attachments. Do not click on these links, as they could be embedded with malware.

4. Although social media companies like Facebook are cracking down on ads spreading coronavirus conspiracies and fake cures, some ads may make it past their review process. Remember, it’s best to seek information on the disease from official sources like those mentioned above.

3/11/20 – Exploiting the Coronavirus: Watch out for These Scams!

Look out! The bad guys are preying on your fear and sending all sorts of scams related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19).

Below are some examples of the types of scams you should be on the lookout for:

  1. Emails that appear to be from organizations such as the CDC (Centers for Disease Control), or the WHO (World Health Organization). The scammers have crafted emails that appear to come from these sources, but they actually contain malicious phishing links or dangerous attachments.
  2. Emails that ask for charity donations for studies, doctors, or victims that have been affected by the COVD-19 Coronavirus. Scammers often create fake charity emails after global phenomenons occur, like natural disasters, or health scares like the COVID-19.
  3. Emails that claim to have a “new” or “updated” list of cases of Coronavirus in your area. These emails could contain dangerous links and information designed to scare you into clicking on the link.

Remain cautious! And always remember the following to protect yourself from scams like this:

  • Never click on links or download attachments from an email that you weren’t expecting.
  • If you receive a suspicious email that appears to come from an official organization such as the WHO or CDC, report the email to the official organization through their website.
  • If you want to make a charity donation, go to the charity website of your choice to submit your payment. Type the charity’s web address in your browser instead of clicking on any links in emails, or other messages.