In honor of my Caught Dead in Wyoming mystery series, my assistant Kay Coyte is writing for my newsletter and blog a series of consumer tips inspired by TV reporter Elizabeth Danniher.
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It didn’t take long for scammers to see opportunity in a nation confused and afraid of a killer virus. My spam inbox is filling with too-good-to-be-true offers and even a few invitations from sex workers with a pandemic spin. “Katina,” I’m so relieved you’re not ‘CORONA VIRUS POSITIVE’.
The Norton computer security firm has compiled several examples of phishing emails here. In phishing attacks, the email sender might urge you to open an attachment to see the latest statistics, or some other ploy. Clicking on an attachment or embedded link could download malware (malicious software) onto your laptop or phone. This is the foot in the door criminals use to take control of your computer, log your keystrokes or access personal information and financial data.
In Louisville, Ky., suspicious pop-up testing sites operating in some of the city’s low-income areas are now under investigation. Two medical marketing companies advertised drive-through tests – including one that promised results in 24 hours – and charged up to $250 per test. The city’s Metro Council President David James confronted workers at multiple sites, along with community advocates. “They are telling people they are testing for COVID-19 but it’s actually just a medicaid fraud scheme,” James told local TV station WAVE. City and state health officials now advise residents experiencing coronavirus symptoms to seek testing only from hospitals, health care providers or government agencies.
Here are tips from the Federal Trade Commission in response to coronavirus scams.
- Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government. The details are still coming together.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There are no products proven to treat or prevent COVID-19 at this time. Also, the Food and Drug Administration and FTC have issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the virus. The products include teas, essential oils and colloidal silver.
- Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
The FTC suggests checking back regularly as its information is updated. You can report scams to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
Your state’s attorney general’s office is also tracking these scams and may provide more specific local information. A list of state attorneys general, with website links, is here.