A crisis can bring out the best in people. With the rapid and unprecedented developments related to the COVID-19 outbreak, we’re seeing people offering to help others who are in isolation, businesses offering services for free, people donating to good causes, concern for friend and stranger alike.
But it also brings out the worst. There are people who see this as an opportunity to take advantage of others. We’re all a bit off balance. Very little in our lives is normal. So, it becomes harder to tell legitimate from fake, particularly when the facts themselves are changing by the hour. In our stress, concern, and search for consolation, we’re at greater risk of making a hasty bad decision.
Here are the most common COVID-specific scams you’ll encounter.
Fake cures, vaccines, and treatments
There is amazing progress happening around the world on the formulation of a vaccine. But there is no vaccine or cure yet. Full stop. And yet, there are social-media posts leading to websites claiming to offer miraculous treatments. Some of these websites are malicious, most just want your credit-card information. We’re all anxious for a medical solution but it’s going to take time. There is no treatment you can buy. Anyone claiming to have one is lying.
Whenever any product becomes short in supply (face masks or toilet paper, for example) a rash of websites pop up purporting to fulfill the demand. Now is not the time to take risks on untested, unfamiliar e-commerce websites.
We’ve had reports from people across North America who’ve bought products online but have receive nothing. In far too many cases, they never will. In some cases, these may be smaller companies who meant well; they saw an opportunity and just couldn’t keep up with the demand.
But often these are fraudulent websites with only one purpose: to separate worried people from their money. Stick to the websites you know, the tried and tested sites that you know you can trust.
Emails with malware attachments, and those leading to malicious sites, are at an all-time high. The senders of these emails are banking on the fact that we’re all hungry for news and updates, and therefore less likely to examine them very closely.
At BBB, we’re seeing them in any number of forms: news about the rate of infection, announcements from health agencies, air travel changes, notifications about government funding available, and more.
Most people use email servers that are pretty good at weeding out spam and phishing attempts. But with the current volume, don’t count on them to be perfect. Check every email carefully, even if it appears to come from a trusted individual or organization and especially if it contains a link or attachment.
Talk to the people you care for about these scams and help prevent them from being the next victim. We’re all more vulnerable right now than usual, but we’ll get through this together.