While the coronavirus already has people on edge and worried about their health, it’s important to also remember to prioritize your online safety while browsing the Internet or reading through emails.
Some criminals are taking advantage of the fear and unknown around the worldwide coronavirus pandemic, and they’re targeting people primarily through the internet. Just as seniors are typical targets for identity theft while shopping online, they are also the common targets of these scammers.
Meanwhile, the AARP this week released a study that found the rate of elder financial exploitation has more than doubled since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March of 2020. It found in 2020 alone, COVID-related scams stole $100 million from older adults.
We don’t want to scare seniors or stop them from browsing the Internet. Instead, we want to provide you with the information you need to be able to recognize these scams and protect yourself.
What Kind of Coronavirus Investment Scams are There?
The Department of Justice has received reports of many different types of scams. Some claim to be selling testing kits, vaccines, or cures for the coronavirus. Others appear to be charities asking for donations, but they aren’t actually charities. Still, others are phishing emails that appear to come from the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Finally, some malicious websites or apps that appear to be sharing new COVID-19 information can actually gain access to and lock down your device and demand payment.
Most of these scams are aiming to profit off of the confusion surrounding the coronavirus. The best way to protect yourself is to know what to look for to identify scams and then ignore them, hang up the robocall, or delete the email.
Protecting Yourself Against Coronavirus Scams
As of now, there are no FDA-approved home testing kits. If you see an advertisement for or receive an email about these kits, a vaccine, or home treatments, it is spam. The best thing to do is delete the email or ignore the advertisement since the scammers are trying to get you to purchase a product that is not proven to help diagnose or treat COVID-19.
Another way to protect yourself is to do your research. If you receive an email from a charity asking for donations or if you see a news article online with new information, see if you can find the information elsewhere. Go directly to the charity’s website — don’t click on any links. Make sure they’re a real organization before you give any money. You can also ask someone else if they’ve heard the same information. Whether you’re chatting with a friend or want to call your children, it’s a good idea to verify this information.
If you receive an email from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization, don’t click on any links. The most updated information will always be on their website, so you can go straight to cdc.gov or who.int to find out the latest news.
While the majority of these scams are happening online, they can also happen through the phone as well. Some caller ID programs nowadays will show “Spam Risk” instead of a name or phone number. Do not answer those calls. If you choose to answer a call from a number you don’t know and you find out it’s a robocall trying to sell you something, hang up immediately. Don’t press any other buttons — just hang up.
Reporting Coronavirus Investment Fraud
If you come across any of these scams, the Justice Department is asking that you please report them. This way they can be aware of what is happening and they can take the action necessary to stop it.
The Internet is a great place to get updated information about the coronavirus, but there are also people taking advantage of the situation. Protect yourself by staying alert. Don’t click on links in emails, especially if you don’t necessarily know who is sending it. You don’t need to be worried about finding information online, but it’s a good idea to stay informed and safe online.
We at Deupree House hope you and your family are staying healthy and well during this time. For more on how we are responding to the coronavirus pandemic here at our community, visit our website.
(This blog has been updated with new information about the AARP BankSafe report about Pandemic-era financial exploitation)