The scammers are calling, texting, tweeting, emailing, you name it, and they are using the novel coronavirus to catch you off guard.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers have lost $5.85 million for COVID-19 schemes, and that's just what has been reported to the agency. The average median loss to these scams for each consumer is about $600.
Since the beginning of the year, the FTC has received more than 8,400 coronavirus-related complaints from consumers, double what they were about a week ago.
COVID-19 Scam Voicemails:
You must be on guard for several different types of voicemails that are all scams. Here are a few examples from the Federal Communications Commission on some of the bogus voicemails.
Test Kit Phone Scam: The Coronavirus Response Act has made coronavirus testing more accessible immediately. If you want to receive a free testing kit delivered overnight to your home, press 1. If you do not want your free testing, press 2.
Student Loan Callback Scam: Hello this is Brad ... with an important message regarding the effects of the coronavirus outbreak on your student loans. As you may have already heard, President Trump invoked his power as commander-in-chief by declaring a national emergency due to the widespread impact of COVID-19. New measures will include waiving interest on your federal student loans until further notice. During this time our offices have continued to maintain full staffing levels and will continue to do so until further notice. For more information on how these new measures will impact your future payment obligations, call us back today at 855-264-XXXX before 6:00 PM Pacific Standard Time. Thanks, and have a great day
Social Security Scam:Hello this is a call from the Social Security Administration. During these difficult times of the coronavirus, we regret to inform you that we have got an order to suspend your socials immediately within 24 hours due to suspicious and fraudulent activities found on your socials. We are contacting you as this case is critical and needs your urgent attention. To get more information about this case please call immediately on our department number 888-991-XXXX. I repeat 888-991-XXXX.
Delivery Scam:Dear customer: Due to coronavirus outbreak, we deliver a wide range of sanitizers, handwash, toilet papers, and face masks at your doorstep to safeguard you and your family from coronavirus. No need to visit stores. Get delivery in 24 hours. To order press 1. For more knowledge and safety tips about coronavirus, press 2.
HVAC for Coronavirus Phone Scam: Protect your loved ones from the coronavirus. For only $79 our highly trained technicians will do a full air duct cleaning and sanitation to make sure that the air you breathe is free of bacteria. So don't hesitate, press 0 and have your duct system cleaned and sanitized now. Press 9 to be removed from this list.
Diabetic Test Kit Scam: If you are diabetic and using insulin, we can qualify you to get a free diabetic monitor and a complimentary testing kit for coronavirus. To learn more, please press 1, otherwise please press 2.
Work From Home Scam: Hello this is a courtesy invitation to work with Amazon from home and make up to $400 in a day. Open enrollment has begun for the Amazon associate program. The program allows you to partner with Amazon and share in their success, as a referral partner. Everyone over 18 qualifies. No sales or technical experience are needed. Work from home. You set your own schedule. To learn more about partnering with Amazon, call the Amazon hotline at 360-203-XXXX. Spaces are limited so please call now, 360-203-XXXX, that's 360-203-XXXX. Thank you.
Other COVID-19 Scams
Many people are also reporting getting texts, emails and social media messages about the stimulus package. Though many consumers will receive checks as part of the federal government response to the coronavirus, no one will call or text you to verify your personal information or bank account details in order to "release" the funds. The Treasury Department expects most people to receive their payments via direct-deposit information that the department has on file from prior tax filings.
You also need to beware of charity scams. Hackers will duplicate nonprofit websites or pretend to be with a legitimate charity and call for donations. If you want to donate, never do it from a telemarketer or a robocall. Instead, go directly to the charity and make your donation through it.
The FCC offers the following tips to help you protect yourself from scams, including coronavirus scams:
Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
Be cautious if you're being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering or responding. Remember that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money.
Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren't hacked.
Always check on a charity (for example, by calling or looking at its actual website) before donating.
North Carolina Secretary of State Elaine Marshall is cautioning investors that the ongoing coronavirus pandemic will likely spark a surge of investment fraud.
"Sadly, scam artists will seek to exploit rising concerns about COVID-19 to draw people into investment traps," Marshall said. "Fraudsters often use the day's headlines in their pitches, so expect to see them prey on the fear surrounding the unfolding coronavirus pandemic and recent economic developments to promote sham investments."
What you need to watch out for are imposters who may develop schemes falsely purporting to raise capital for companies manufacturing surgical masks and gowns, producing ventilators, distributing small-molecule drugs and other preventative pharmaceuticals, or manufacturing vaccines and miracle cures.
Marshall also said don't fall for scammers who will seek to take advantage of concerns with the volatility in the securities markets to promote "safe" investments with "guaranteed returns" including investments tied to gold, silver and other commodities; oil and gas; and real estate.
"From guarantees of high returns without risk to promises of miracle cures, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is," Marshall warned. "I urge North Carolinians to follow these tips to help protect your financial and physical health as you navigate these uncertain times."
Investors are encouraged to call the NC Investor Hotline at (800) 688-4507 or email email@example.com before signing over their money in any investment opportunity. If you suspect an investment opportunity is fraudulent you can report it at www.sosnc.gov. You can also find a wealth of investor education material at www.sosnc.gov/divisions/securities.
Here are some Troubleshooter Takeaways to help protect yourself from scams