One industry showing no signs of slowing down during Coronavirus is hardly unexpected: Cyber scamming. Scammers have continued to thrive – flourish even – during and as we work to recover from the pandemic.
The Better Business Bureau has identified six of the most reported financial scams during this time:
1. Stimulus check scams: As you know, $1,200 was issued to a considerable number of Americans by the U.S. government, but because the payments rolled out slowly, scammers took advantage quickly. The BBB reports that fake economic impact checks were mailed, promising people that they could get their money faster if they paid a small fee. Little do the unfortunate know, but these checks are not coming from the government, and aren’t even real for that matter. The bad guys use this scam to:
- Cheat you out of money
- Gain access to your bank account
- Potentially steal your identity
2. Phishing scams: Although phishing scams have always been popular among con artists, they have gained even more popularity in this work-from-home era.
For example, I recently received an email from ‘Uber’ telling me to claim my offer of a free ride. But the email looked suspicious, and when I checked who the email was from, it wasn’t the official Uber website. I didn’t click any links and I’m glad I didn’t. This is a classic phishing scam, and the type the BBB warns against. The bad guys email you, enticing you with some great offer so as to get you to click a bad link which will then infect your computer with a virus.
Phishing scams usually entail emails that look (almost) exactly like ones from companies you trust - whether it be your employer, or an organization, or maybe a retailer that you know and like. The point is to get you to let your guard down (because it looks legit) and have you click on links that ultimately compromise your computer, and eventually, your personal information.
3. Government impersonation: A common scam that has been cropping up more and more during the COVID-19 are government impersonator emails, texts and phone calls. Con artists will contact you, claiming to be some government official; they may say they are from the FBI, or the IRS, or even your local police. The point is to scare you into letting your guard down.
One common angle is that they mention that that they have an “online coronavirus test” that you need to take. The BBB reports that no test like this exists (of course.) The goal is to get you to go to an infected website, click a bad link, thereby downloading malware onto your computer which allows them to hijack your personal information.
4. Employment scams: This emerging trick is one of the crueler, yet more sophisticated, financial scams that has cropped up during this time. Employment scams seek to get the recently unemployed to cough up money and bank account information through clever - and costly - tricks.
It works like this: Scammers will target the unemployed with phony work-from-home job offers. The jobs seem legit, are “easy to do,” and “pay good money,” and the hiring process is “quick and painless.” Too painless to be true.
Alert! When you start training for the job, the crooks will ask you to pay fees for the cost of training you. Red flag! Or, you will be asked to wire back “overpayments” or buy expensive equipment. These scams ultimately cost you not only your money, but your time, hope and reputation.
5. The Fake-Cure Scam: During this time of high anxiety, people are of course seeking answers and relief. Scammers have been attempting to provide that by offering “coronavirus cures.” Via phone, text, or email, they will offer special masks, or “medical cures that the government is hiding.”
But you know the drill by now: They will also ask you for your credit card information. Of course, the products never arrive and the link you clicked or the information you provided allows for identity theft.
Ultimately, there are many scams that have become more popular because of coronavirus fears. But if you keep your eyes peeled and stay alert, you won’t get hurt.
Steven D. Strauss is one of the world's leading experts on small business and is a lawyer, writer, and speaker. The senior small business columnist for USA Today, his Ask/servlet/JiveServlet/downloadImage/38-3373-418524/steve+strauss+headshot.png an Expert column is one of the most highly-syndicated business columns in the country. He is the best-selling author of 17 books, including his latest, The Small Business Bible, now out in a completely updated third edition. You can also listen to his weekly podcast, Small Business Success.© Steven D. Strauss
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