Beware of COVID-19 scammers

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Scammers have already concocted numerous methods for defrauding the public in connection with COVID-19. There are increasing reports of criminals setting up fraudulent websites and posing as healthcare workers to defraud the public seeking treatment for COVID-19. As businesses increase their tele-work, there is a rise in phishing emails and business email compromises. There is also the significant risk of ransomware, or other cyber-criminal activity, disrupting medical services or government operations essential for responding to this pandemic.

Some examples of frauds linked to COVID-19 include:

• Treatment scams: Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.

• Supply scams: Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.

• Provider scams: Scammers are also contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19, and demanding payment for that treatment.

• Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.

• Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.

• App scams: Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.

• Investment scams: Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.

From the Michigan Health & Hospital Association

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