Phishing scams, in which scammers pose as a legitimate company or organization in order to steal your money or sensitive personal information, are an ongoing threat in our digital age. 

With the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic wreaking havoc around the globe, scammers have created a number of related tactics, including Illinois COVID-19 scams here in our community.

As your community bank, Dieterich is here to help you understand the 5 most common Coronavirus scams and how to avoid falling for them. Here’s what you need to know. 

1. Fraudulent emails from the CDC and World Health Organization

According to the CDC’s website, you should beware of phishing emails claiming to be from the CDC with “attached notices regarding infection-prevention measures for the disease.” Opening attachments from unknown or fraudulent senders is likely to lead to virus or malware on your computer. Don’t click on links, either, without hovering your mouse over it first to see where it leads. It is always better to visit the CDC website directly for information and updates on Coronavirus instead of getting those updates from third-parties.

Hackers and cyber scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic by sending fraudulent email and WhatsApp messages that attempt to trick you into clicking on malicious links or opening attachments.

These actions can reveal your username and password, which can be used to steal money or sensitive information.

If you want to support relief efforts, the one legitimate way to donate to WHO is through their COVID-19 Solidarity Response Fund.

2. Scam texts and phone calls

Beware of robocalls and other messages via text or phone call that take advantage of virus-related fears to steal your money and/or sensitive personal information. 

Don’t click on links from virus-related text messages. This is a “phishing” scam to install malware on your device or get you to enter personal information on a bogus website that promises to send a free coronavirus test or something similar. Other current text message scams include: 

  • False advertisement of a cure
  • Offer to sell you health insurance
  • Claim that the government will soon order a national stay-at-home order
  • Instruction to go stock up on supplies
  • Impersonation of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services with an instruction to take a “mandatory online COVID-19 test.”

Americans can receive some of these same messages via robocall. Additional robocall scams include:

  • Impersonation of the World Health Organization or CDC 
  • Impersonation of charities to solicit your money or bank account information
  • An offer of a free virus testing kit in exchange for your personal and health insurance info
  • Targeting of diabetic individuals by offering the virus testing kit along with a free diabetic monitor
  • Asking for over-the-phone payment for a fake cure
  • Work-from-home opportunities
  • Student loan repayment plans
  • Debt consolidation offers
  • Claims that you need to verify personal and bank account information in order to receive your coronavirus check from the federal government

You can listen to real examples of COVID-19 robocall scams on the FCC website.

3. Price gouging and counterfeit products

Raising prices on essential items like hand sanitizer, face masks, and other coveted products is a national issue. Here in Illinois, Attorney General Kwame Raoul is warning businesses to keep prices fair and collaborating with state attorneys to fight price gouging at the local level.

4. Phony charity and donations

As mentioned in the robocalls section, fraudulent charity solicitations are a popular scam right now. Scammers take advantage of people’s generosity and desire to help, both during the COVID-19 pandemic and in the wake of other disasters, such as hurricanes.

To avoid charity scams, don’t make on-the-spot solicitations under pressure. If you want to donate to charity, choose one and go directly to their website to give money. Want to help but not sure where to start? Charity Navigator has a list of nonprofits working to help with COVID-19. Local food pantries are also a good cause to support. Food insecurity is increasing in many communities as people get laid off or furloughed and kids are no longer receiving free meals at school. 

5. Economic Impact Payment stimulus check scams

As soon as Congress passed legislation giving “Economic Impact Payments” to most Americans, scammers organized to take advantage of people’s vulnerability and eagerness to receive the extra money. Here’s what you need to know to avoid falling victim to a stimulus check scam.

How much will I get?

U.S. residents will receive the Economic Impact Payment of $1,200 for individual or head of household filers, and $2,400 for married filing jointly if they are not a dependent of another taxpayer and have a work eligible Social Security number with adjusted gross income up to:

  • $75,000 for individuals
  • $112,500 for head of household filers and
  • $150,000 for married couples filing joint returns

How will I get my payment?

Economic Impact payments will be direct-deposited into your bank account or the IRS will mail you a paper check if it doesn’t have your account information.

How can I avoid scammers?

From “The IRS urges taxpayers to be on the lookout for scam artists trying to use the economic impact payments as cover for schemes to steal personal information and money. Remember, the IRS will not call , text you, email you or contact you on social media  asking for personal or bank account information – even related to the economic impact payments. Also, watch out for emails with attachments or links claiming to have special information about economic impact payments or refunds.”

Where can I report Economic Impact Payment scams?

You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

At Dieterich Bank, our highest priority is your health and safety.

We are committed to supporting our customers during this difficult time. Have questions or concerns about your finances or the security of your account? Please do not hesitate to reach out to us.