The Worst Coronavirus Scams are Festering
The year 2020 saw the worst coronavirus scams, but you still need to be aware of con artists trying to swindle us.
It shouldn’t have been a surprise that coronavirus scams were a significant problem throughout all of 2020. Do you think it’s over now that the pandemic has eased up a little? Not so fast. Con artists will never give up on an opportunity.
As if the pandemic itself wasn’t enough trouble, con artists added to the misery of thousands of people worldwide with a variety of scams. The Covid-19 breakout was historic, and the types of scams that it brought out were historic, too. They were on a level in volume and sophistication that was unprecedented.
This article includes a recap of the scams that were going on at the heart of the Covid-19 scare.
History is a good teacher.
A look back at the coronavirus scams is important, for a few reasons:
- It shows how “clever” scammers are in their approaches
- You see how ruthless con artists are in taking advantage of vulnerable people
- It can raise your awareness of scams and the lengths evil people will go to find victims
Maybe the best reason to read this article is to realize that, like the virus itself, coronavirus scams are evolving into new strains.
Coronavirus scams one year later.
In a May 2021 post on their website, the United States Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reminded citizens to keep their eyes open. The title of their article was, “Let’s Talk About Coronavirus scams.”
The FTC has advice about scams, and they remind us to keep our eyes open to fraud. They also encourage everyone to pass along what they learned to friends and family. That’s the same goal we have here at WhatIsMyIPAddress.com and EasyPrey.com.
In 2021 scammers are still looking for fraudulent schemes to keep milking Covid-19. The FTC had news for everyone to keep us on our toes.
Coronavirus scams are still with us.
- Scammers are offering to help people schedule and obtain virus shots for a fee. Just remember that there isn’t a cost for the shot for everyone.
- Fraudsters pretending to be with FEMA are calling those who have lost relatives to Covid, offering to help with funeral costs. If they’re not asking for money, they are obtaining personal account information.
- We need to be aware of fake websites scammers set up pretending to be approved and/or trusted Covid-19 sources.
- You can report fraud of any kind at any time to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
Here is who coronavirus scammers prey on.
Those who are potential targets fall into the following groups:
- Worried people desperate for products to make them well.
- Hopeful people looking to buy products they need to stay well.
- Curious people online searching for information on the virus.
- People online eager for updates and information on the status of things.
- Responsible employees doing their part to keep business running
- People who are lured by a sudden investment.
In other words, just about everyone. The sad truth is, we are all targets for scammers, perhaps some more than others. You, your spouse, your boyfriend or girlfriend, your parents or neighbors…everyone.
You need to be especially aware of the following types of virus-related scams.
Here were the key coronavirus scams from 2020.
- Imitations of actual virus maps that link to malware.
Hackers in the State of Washington put up a link to a website that imitated the well-known and highly-used “coronavirus map” from Johns Hopkins University. It tricks people who are hungry, if not desperate, for up-to date-information into clicking on the link—which in turn launches malware onto their computers. The fake map, looks quite a bit like the actual Covid-19 Interactive Map on the University’s website.
The actual map was developed at the JHU by experts in global health to provide researchers, health authorities and the public information by offering a user-friendly tool to track the coronavirus outbreak.
Here is the actual link to the Johns Hopkins University “Covid-19 Interactive Map”.
- Beware of fake emails supposedly from official organizations, such as WHO.
Hackers are also sending urgent-looking, fake emails that pretend to come from well-known health organizations. One known hack attempt involves a fake email that looks like it’s from WHO, the World Health Organization. This fake email urges the reader to click on a “Safety Measures” button to “read the attached document on safety measures regarding the corona virus.” Instead it launches a malware.
Here is the actual link to the World Health Organization (https://www.who.int/) website, where you can follow valuable health information for daily updates from the international organization.
- Fake corona virus cures or remedies
There aren’t any cures or preventive medicines for sale online, no matter what a website might claim. Still, there are hundreds of advertised potions and elixirs that people will offer up online. There are NO products of any kind available that are antidotes to the virus or help prevent it.
- Fake, poorly made or low-quality masks
Amazon and other online sellers are doing their best to keep fraudulent products off their website, but it’s a hard battle. If you’re desperate for products, you are easy prey for scammers selling unverified or low-quality products.
- Can’t-miss investment opportunities
If you invest in a company that claims to have products and/or services that help stop the virus, you could lose your entire investment or most of it. There’s something called a “pump-and-dump” scheme that is common year round. It’s where shady investors buy, then hype a particular stock (of actual low value) with false information to drive up share prices. Then, they dump (sell) their shares, pocket their profits, before prices fall. Hopeful investors end up with nothing.
- Business-specific “phishing” attacks
Hackers target businesses with “phishing” tactics during the crisis. Not only is this a common scam it’s a year-round scam. They trick employees to click on dangerous links, or to send payments for fake invoices. Con artists get employees to divulge company secrets or submit passwords. For instance, during the pandemic, scammers sent emails that looked like a legitimate company’s purchase order for protective masks and supplies. Busy or desperate office managers paid many of those invoices.
- Fake charities seeking donations for others.
While some hackers prey on our fears, there are other con artists that prey on our better natures. False donation scams have already begun to appear. If you get a phone call or emails about donating to a worthy cause, ignore it. If you want to help, do your own research and find a legitimate organization to support…whatever you choose. Don’t let a letter or smooth-talking caller deceive you.
Stay informed about coronavirus scams with the Easy Prey Podcast.
These are indeed strange times, so it’s important to know scammers are at work every day of the year. They don’t stop; instead they ramp up their attacks during crises.
For that reason alone, it’s important to know about coronavirus scams, as well as all the other kinds of scams that are always out there.
One way to stay informed about scams is to follow the new Easy Prey podcast, hosted by Chris Parker, the CEO and founder of WhatIsMyIPAddress.
Listen in, share it with others, and stay safe.
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