A nonprofit publication of the Kentucky Center for Public Service Journalism

BBB Trends: COVID-19 is a big threat, but not the only one; beware of scammers up to no good


As the COVID-19 pandemic spreads, so does uncertainty and fear: two elements that con artists thrive on. BBB has compiled a list of the most active scams so you can stay alert. Though we have not seen any of these scams reported in the Tri-State area, BBB recommends consumers protect themselves just in case.

Check this list below for tips to help you identify and avoid coronavirus scams:

1. Phony Cures and Fake Masks

BBB Scam Tracker has received numerous reports of people receiving emails and messages offering to send high-quality face masks, or supplements and medicines that cure the disease. Medical experts are working hard to find a coronavirus vaccine, but as of right now, there is no cure.

2. Economic Impact Payment (Stimulus Check) Scams

With the approved stimulus package underway, scammers quickly got to work sending out fake economic impact checks and asking consumers to pay fees to get their money earlier than what the IRS has promised. These claims are false, and open consumers to the risk of identity theft and outright theft of the funds in their bank account.

3. Phishing Scams

As more and more people are working from home, con artists have stepped up their phishing scams. They may claim to be from the employer’s IT department and insist your company-issued computer has a virus. Many use scare tactics, stating the computer will crash if you don’t act immediately. It’s just an attempt to gain access to your computer remotely and to collect information.

4. Government Impersonation

Another common phishing scam brought on by the coronavirus pandemic claims to come right from the government. These “government-issued” emails and text messages ask you to take an “online coronavirus test” by clicking a link. No such test currently exists. If you click on the link, scammers can instantly download malware onto your device and get to your personal information.

5. Employment Scams

Many people are looking for work online in the wake of coronavirus shutdowns. Fraudsters take advantage of this by posting phony work-from-home jobs that promise remote work with suspiciously good pay and no interview required. These cons often use real company names and can be very convincing. Here’s how it works: once you engage, the scammers tell you you’re hired and must begin training, which costs you money upfront. They may ask you for personal and banking information to run a credit check or set up direct deposit.

Supplies such as hand sanitizer, face masks and toilet paper are selling out in stores across the U.S. and Canada. Some people stockpile items in high demand, then seek out potential clients, online and in person, and sell the products at extremely high prices. It’s called price gouging, and it is illegal. High product demand can also lead to con artists selling products that are used, defective or otherwise mishandled. In some cases, scammers will con people out of their money by accepting payments for products that don’t even exist.

This has been an issue with face masks. Masks are sold out in most local stores and major online sellers, so consumers are turning to unfamiliar online shops. These phony online retailers take shoppers’ money—and personal information—and never deliver the masks.

To report a scam, visit Scamtracker.org. Don’t forget to check BBB.org for more information on how to avoid scams. BBB Cincinnati has also put together a collection of crucial information and essential resources for business owners, consumers, employees, parents, students, veterans – anyone and anyone. Visit COVID19Cincy.org for more information.

From Better Business Bureau


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