While we wait for the inevitable stimulus-related big-ticket fraud to roll out in the coming months, take some time to alert family, friends and social networks to the COVID-19 consumer fraud schemes that are already rearing their ugly heads. One way to accomplish this would be by circulating one of the many fraud alerts issued by US Attorneys’ offices around the country. Here are links to two examples, from the Middle District of Florida and the District of Columbia.
- Scams thus far identified by law enforcement include:
- Seeking donations for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
- Check scams, contacting people by phone or e-mail and telling them that their stimulus checks are ready and asking for bank account and Social Security numbers, resulting in identity theft.
- Offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19. Some scammers are impersonating governmental organizations, such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and urging people to reserve a vaccine for COVID-19 with their credit card and to provide personal information such as a Social Security Number.
- Impersonating organizations such as the Red Cross, and offering COVID-19 home tests door-to-door.
- Creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies such as surgical masks.
- Posing as representatives of national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the CDC, sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into clicking on a link or opening an attachment that downloads malware and gains access to personal information, including usernames, credit card numbers and passwords.
- Creating and manipulating mobile apps and websites purportedly designed to track the spread of COVID-19 but actually used to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information, then seeking payment to reverse the damage.
- Investment scams, offering bogus promotions on social media platforms, claiming that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,’ make predictions of specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.
- Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.
- Unscrupulous doctors writing prescriptions for medications that are said to cure COVID-19, for which there is as yet no known cure or therapeutic treatment. This encourages unwitting consumers to take unapproved medication that can be harmful and deprive others who need the medicines for legitimate purposes.
- Phone and email contacts pretending to be doctors and hospitals who have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment.
We at Taxpayers Against Fraud hope you and your families are all staying safe and well during this time.