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8 Tips for Avoiding COVID-19 Scams

In the past weeks, all of our lives have experienced significant disruption. We are balancing caring for the health of loved ones, learning to home-school children, all while continuing to work. Not to mention losing social outlets and drastic economic changes – we really don’t need more life hurdles.

So it’s with the top focus of safety and health in mind that I implore you to: Stay vigilant about fraud.

Criminals are taking advantage of widespread panic to make a quick buck. Phishing attacks are on the rise, with fraudsters posing as legitimate organizations such as the World Health Organization in an attempt to get you to click links or open attachments that will install malware and steal information.

Social engineering and attempts to get you to disclose personal information that will facilitate financial fraud are rampant and even include creative attempts at COVID-19 tax refund schemes.

At FICO, we are continuing to work hard every day to protect people from fraud. We wanted to share some guidance on how to prevent the bad guys from profiting off of the panic. Some of these tips will be familiar, but they’re worth a reminder.  You also may want to share them with relatives and seniors in particular.

  • Do not click links or open attachments from people you don’t know. If a company is sending you an email to advise you of their coronavirus response, Google the company’s name to navigate to their website where the information will likely be cross-posted.
  • Talk to your loved ones and assure them you are safe, and discuss what your plan would be to reach out if you need help. Grandparents and others can be tricked into sending payments and draining their savings – don’t let them be.
  • Bear in mind fraudsters may be going door to door for scams such as disinfecting homes to gain access to a home. Double check their legitimacy during this time of social distancing.
  • Be aware of pandemic-related scams such as buying face masks, or fake funding sites purporting to be collecting money for people that have lost their jobs.
  • If you are buying goods online, be careful of the seller’s legitimacy. When in doubt, Google the seller’s name + the word “scam”. If it’s a phone call, Google the number + the words “who called”.
  • Don’t trust a website simply because it begins with “https://”. The s” merely means the data in transit is encrypted, that the site is legitimate or secure. 74% of all phishing sites now use SSL.
  • Think about how you want to pay for orders and use a trusted mechanism - such as a credit card or PayPal - which generally provides more protection. Be wary about making payments using wire transfers or bank transfers.  If you are a victim of fraud, it will be difficult or impossible to get your money back.
  • When trying to contact a company, or your bank, only use contact information you have found from a reliable source. For example, if you get an email that looks like it is from your bank don’t check by calling the number in that email, but rather look on the bank’s website or on your bank card.

Scammers rely on creating a false sense of urgency, and the current situation is making us all more vulnerable. Be cautious about responding to any offer where there is undue time related pressure.

Stay safe and let’s flatten the COVID-19 and the fraud curves!

For more information, Forbes has announced several malicious domains: Watch Out For These Risky COVID-19 Websites And Emails.

You can also read my post for more tips: 6 Types of COVID Scams to Watch Out For.

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