Covid-19 Swindles on the Rise
Updated: Jun 9
Clever thieves are getting more creative to gain access to your accounts and personal information during the COVID-19 pandemic. Here are some of the schemes that are being attempted:
Economic Impact Payments
The IRS is warning you to be on the lookout for a surge of calls and e-mail phishing attempts related to the coronavirus pandemic and the one-time economic impact payments. Watch for use of the words stimulus check or stimulus payment. If someone in an official capacity uses these terms your concern level should rise. The official term is economic impact payment. Scammers may ask you to sign over your economic impact payment check to them or may offer help in securing your payment.
Online COVID-19 Tests
Individuals posing as workers from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services or other federal departments use text messages to instruct you to click on a link to complete a mandatory online COVID-19 test. However, there is currently no way of conducting a COVID-19 test online.
Contact with COVID-19
This scam sends an e-mail to warn you that you came into contact with a colleague/friend/family member who has COVID-19. The e-mail instructs you to download and print an Excel spreadsheet and bring it to the nearest COVID-19 testing site. After opening the spreadsheet, you are told they need to enable the content in order to view the spreadsheet’s details. Malicious macros are then activated when you click on the Enable Content button, infecting your computer.
SBA Loan Applications
Fraudulent e-mails were sent out as correspondence from the U.S. Small Business Administration telling you that you could apply for a small business disaster assistance grant. You are instructed to sign an attached document and upload it to the SBA’s website. When the attachment is downloaded, a remote access trojan was installed on your computer or other electronic device.
Online fraud and schemes wouldn’t be complete without coronavirus-themed malware. There are multiple variants of a master boot record (MBR) locker, including one called coronavirus.bat. The malware replaces the MBR of a computer, preventing the operating system from starting and instead displays a ransom note or other message.
Fake Testing Sites or Solicitors
Hands down the most brazen attempt to steal personal information are pop-up COVID-19 testing sites and door-to-door solicitors. The thieves tell potential victims that they can be tested for COVID-19 for a $240 fee. They then pocket the cash and use the personal information gathered from individuals to make fraudulent Medicare and Medicaid claims.
Currently, only health care providers are administering tests for COVID-19, and no vaccine or treatments are available as stated by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
What You Can Do
Awareness is key. If it seems unusual, it probably is. Seniors are often the target of these scams. So stay in touch with parents and grandparents as it relates to coronavirus activity. Tell them to let you know when they receive their payment. Make sure they understand that no personal information is required to receive these payments.
If you receive unsolicited e-mails, text messages, or any other type of attempt to gather information that appears to be from either the IRS or an organization closely linked to the IRS (such as the Electronic Federal Tax Payment System, or EFTPS), you should forward it to email@example.com.