A tragedy or pandemic creates a prime opportunity for sophisticated criminals. Taking advantage of fear and confusion, these bad actors seek to steal your money and/or your personal information through fraudulent emails, text messages and social media posts. Many of these schemes appear legitimate at first glance.
What to watch for
As the world deals with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, we should all be mindful of those who would take advantage of us in this environment. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued guidance on four main types of scams to watch for. Disclosure 1
- Bogus emails claiming to be from organizations such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or World Health Organization (WHO). These emails could contain links or attachments that are intended to harm your computer or steal your personal information. Instead, visit the CDC website(opens in a new tab) or WHO website(opens in a new tab) directly for coronavirus updates.
- Online offers or ads for coronavirus vaccinations. If something shows up in your social media feed or email inbox claiming to offer a vaccine or other treatment for the coronavirus, consider it bogus. That wouldn’t be how a medical breakthrough would be communicated to you.
- Donations for coronavirus. Carefully research any person or website seeking donations to help with coronavirus efforts. If you’re asked to donate to a charity you’ve never heard of, follow these guidelines from the FTC to research whether the charity is legitimate(opens in a new tab). And never donate in cash, with gift cards, or by wiring money. A credit card or check donation is safer.
- “Investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) Disclosure 2 has issued an alert to be cautious of fraudsters claiming that a publicly traded company has a product or service that will soon be released to prevent or cure coronavirus. As a result, the fraudsters claim, these companies will soon see a surging stock price, so they encourage you to buy stock now when the price is low. Read more about these scams here in this alert from the SEC(opens in a new tab).
How to report a suspected scam
When you feel vulnerable and hungry for information, you may be tempted to click on a link or donate to a cause that’s actually malicious or intended to line a scammer’s pocket. Be sure to follow and share the tips above to help protect yourself and others. If you come across anything suspicious, you can report it to the FTC here(opens in a new tab).
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The information, analyses, opinions and/or recommendations contained herein relating to the impact or potential impact of coronavirus/COVID-19 on insurance coverage or any insurance policy is not a legal opinion, warranty or guarantee, and should not be relied upon as such. This communication is intended for informational use only. As insurance agents or brokers, we do not have the authority to render legal advice or to make coverage decisions, and you should submit all claims to your insurance carrier for evaluation. Given the ongoing and constantly changing situation with respect to the coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic, this communication does not necessarily reflect the latest information regarding recently enacted, pending or proposed legislation or guidance that could override, alter or otherwise affect existing insurance coverage. At your discretion, please consult with an attorney at your own expense for specific advice in this regard.
The Federal Trade Commission, “Coronavirus: Scammers follow the headlines,” February 10, 2020, https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/02/coronavirus-scammers-follow-headlines(opens in a new tab)
The U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission, “Look Out for Coronavirus-Related Investment Scams – Investor Alert,” February 4, 2020, https://www.sec.gov/oiea/investor-alerts-and-bulletins/ia_coronavirus(opens in a new tab)
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