Several scams surfacing around Coronavirus (COVID-19)
With many people facing financial challenges, cybercriminals are taking advantage by creating various scams in order to obtain access to your personal information and money. To help, we're highlighting some of these scams so you're aware and vigilant during such a vulnerable time.
Something to keep in mind with the amount of scams going on: Any email, text or phone call asking for personal or account information, cash, gift card or money wires are red flags and most likely a scam.
Tips to help keep scammers at bay:
- Do not click links from sources you don't know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Be wary of emails coming from the CDC or experts saying they have information about the virus.
- Ignore offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
- Keep your computer safe by using security software.
- Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication.
- Any donations asking for cash, gift card or money wires are red flags.
- Most important: Any email, phone call or text asking for personal and/or account information is a red flag. Take necessary precaution.
Be on the lookout for the following scams:
COVID-19 vaccines are in the pipeline. Scammers won't be far behind. Read the full post from the Federal Trade Commission here.
Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Issues Vaccine Scam Notice:
As the COVID-19 vaccine roll-out continues, it’s important to be on the lookout for scams. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FINCEN) recently issued a new warning about vaccine scams:
Beware of scams offering early access to vaccines for a fee.
Keep an eye out for phishing scams where scammers email or text you with phony vaccine information.
Steer clear of scammers trying to sell fake versions of vaccines.
Here are the facts:
You can't pay to get early access to the vaccine.
Medicare covers the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are also free to others throughout the country, although providers may charge an administration fee.
Don't share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising to get you the vaccine for a fee.
For the latest vaccine updates, check with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC). To learn more about how to manage your finances during the pandemic, visit consumerfinance.gov/coronavirus. For tips on how to avoid common scams, check out the CFPB’s fraud prevention resources.
Protect yourself from COVID-19 Vaccine Scamsopens a pdf.
Emails or text messages coming from fraudulent sellers offering face masks, hand sanitizers or vaccines/medicines at high prices.
Phishing scam email claiming to be from or affiliated with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and/or the World Health Organization (WHO) saying they can provide the recipient with a list of people affected by the virus in their area. Should the recipient click the link to access the list, it leads to a malicious website. Example of a scam appearing to come from the WHO:
Fake emails or texts offering financial assistance, that appear to be from your financial institution, the CDC or WHO, and asking for account numbers, Social Security numbers, or your login IDs and passwords
Fraudsters have already deployed a number of different scams related to the COVID-19 stimulus checks. First and foremost, the stimulus checks will be in the form of direct deposits (based on the account used when you filed your latest tax returns) or through U.S. Treasury checks. They will not be acquired through text messages, social media messages or phone calls. In most of these cases, scammers offer grants in which the recipient needs to pay a processing fee. Government agencies will never request an advanced processing fee to receive the grant and do not communicate through text or social media outlets, such as Facebook.
- Scam targeting seniors through a Facebook post informing them of a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link 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.
- Phone calls from fraudsters telling victims they qualified for a $1,000 to $14,000 coronavirus stimulus payment; however, they must first pay a processing fee.
- Fraudsters may look to create counterfeit U.S. Treasury checks to use in their scams or attempt to steal the stimulus checks out of the mail knowing when they will be issued. 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.
1. The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
2. The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
3. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer. These checks will be distributed via direct deposit or through the mail.
If you have student loans and someone contacts you to pay a fee to suspend payments, it's a scam. The government will not ask for a fee to suspend your payments, nor do you need to pay someone to help with your student loans. The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, also known as the CARES Act, will help most federal student loan borrowers by temporarily pausing payments – including principal and interest – on federally held student loans through Sept. 30.There is no action required of you. Learn more here.
Illegal student loan debt relief schemes from companies claiming they can permanently reduce monthly student loan payments and get partial loan forgiveness by enrolling you in legitimate government Income Driven Repayment (IDR) plans. These type of companies charge upfront and monthly fees. Avoid enrolling as these companies take your money and do little for your student loan debt. Read more on this student loan scam from the FTC here.
If you’re concerned about your studies or loan repayment, The Federal Student Aid has created a page on information for students, borrowers, and parents dedicated to answering frequently asked questions. View them at studentaid.gov/announcements-events/coronavirus
Sallie Mae Borrowers:
For those affected, Sallie Mae will suspend payment for one month and keep the loan marked in good standing. Members may extend as many months as necessary simply by contacting Sallie Mae and requesting the extension. In addition, Sallie Mae will waive late fees and can modify the account terms, as warranted.
If your Sallie Mae private student loans have been impacted by the coronavirus, you can chat with Sallie Mae representatives via SallieMae.com or by calling 800/4-SALLIE (800-472-5543) during the following times:
- Monday – Thursday: 8:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. ET
- Friday: 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. ET
- Saturday: 9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. ET
Emails, phone calls or texts asking for donations. Do your homework and research on charities or donation sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.