During the height of the Coronavirus lockdown, I noticed a sudden influx of phishing text messages: an unknown number offering monetary benefits, services, or information, always with a provided link for me to open. After speaking with family and friends, I know I am not alone. My future father-in-law received a shockingly specific text message claiming to be from an investor interested in purchasing his vacation home – complete with the address of the property. With many Americans stuck at home, contending with newfound concerns and different routines, it’s clear that would-be fraudsters are certainly not letting this crisis go to waste.
From January up to April 15th, the Federal Trade Commission had received 18,200 consumer complaints related to the Covid outbreak. According to AARP, the FTC has now received more than 91,800 such consumer complaints, a steep increase over the past two months. More than 60% of these cases involve fraud or identify theft. In total, the victims of these scams have reported losses of $59.2 million.
Scammers often play on recent concerns and developments reported in news headlines. Themes include soliciting charitable donations, offering work from home resources, selling personal protection equipment or providing medical advice, expediting stimulus checks, and shipping free Amazon gift cards.
Thanks to excellent Info Security training from our back office tech support, I’ve learned that protecting against a scam can be as easy as practicing increased awareness. It always helps to slow down and think twice about unexpected or unsolicited incoming messages, emails, and phone calls. Some additional tips to keep in mind:
- Watch for generic greetings that do not use your name
- Look out for typos, poor spelling, or grammatical errors, as these can be signs of fraud
- Never click links or download files from unexpected messages
- If contacted by a company you regularly do business with, type their name into your browser to verify legitimate customer service phone numbers and email addresses
- Never share sensitive personal information when responding to an unsolicited call, text, or email
- Be wary of pressure to “act fast”
- Don’t be afraid to gut check your suspicions with a trusted family member or friend
To keep up with the latest information, you can sign up for the FTC’s consumer alerts here. If you see something you think is a scam, consider reporting it here.
If you become a victim of fraud, please reach out to local authorities, and be sure to notify us of any financial security concerns.