Looking to exploit the corornavirus pandemic as a way to grab a quick buck, scammers are increasingly targeting stuck-at-home consumers with offers ranging from fake testing kits to bogus cures as well as soliciting donations to fake charities, according to U.S. government officials.
The FCC on Friday warned of a “proliferation of scam phone calls and texts” related to the coronavirus outbreak. The agency announced the launch of a COVID-19 Consumer Warnings and Safety Tips page to alert consumers about the dangers. The webpage includes audio clips of actual scams including those offering free home-testing kits and coronavirus HVAC cleaning, and those targeting diabetics who use insulin.
In addition, text message scams have been falsely advertising cures or offers for coronavirus testing, the FCC said. Other text-message hoaxes have claimed the U.S. government will order a mandatory national two-week quarantine — which the National Security Council has said are fake.
The FTC and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration have also posted consumer warnings about fake websites and phishing emails used to pitch bogus products. Government officials say consumers should not click on links in emails or texts related to the virus and should not answer phone calls from unknown numbers (or hang up on robocall scammers).
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Anyone who believes they have been a victim of a coronavirus scam should contact law enforcement immediately, the FCC said.
“We’re tracking scams and sharing information to arm consumers about how impostors use spoofing and other tactics to steal their money and their identity,” Patrick Webre, chief of the FCC’s Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau, said in announcing the web page. “The FCC fights these types of scams through enforcement of its rules, but our primary goal is to be proactive so Americans don’t fall victim to these bad actors.”
For the most up-to-date information, consumers are directed to check the CDC website at cdc.gov/coronavirus.
According to the FTC, in some cases, scammers have used real information to infect computers with malware. For example, some bogus sites have used the real Johns Hopkins University interactive dashboard that is tracking coronavirus infections and deaths to spread password-stealing malware.