Fraudsters are finding ways to take advantage of fears related to the coronavirus. Learn about the common scams and what you can do to protect yourself.
- Scam text messages promising $1,200 stimulus checks: The IRS and a coalition of state tax agencies and tax industry officials are warning individuals who receive such messages not to respond. The text scam typically reads, “You have received a direct deposit of $1,200 from COVID-19 TREAS FUND. Further action is required to accept this payment into your account. Continue here to accept this payment …” The link that accompanies the message is a fake phishing URL, even though it may appear to come from an official source like a state agency. It directs people to an imitation IRS site, and then asks for their personal and financial details, including bank account information. The IRS is reminding people that it does not send these kinds of unsolicited texts or emails. The government tax agency also never demands tax payments via gift cards nor does it threaten people with jail or lawsuits. Check the IRS website for instructions if you have received one of these messages. (Link provided as a courtesy, content not endorsed or guaranteed.)
- Phishing and supply scams. Scammers impersonate health organizations and businesses to gather personal and financial information or sell fake test kits, supplies, vaccines or cures for COVID-19.
- Stimulus check or economic relief scams. The government will NOT ask for a fee to receive funds from the program to help ease the economic impact of the virus. Nor will they ask for your personal or account information.
- Charity scams. Fraudsters seek donations for illegitimate or non-existent organizations.
- Delivery of malware through “virus-tracking apps” or sensationalized news reports.
- Provider scams. Scammers impersonate doctors and hospital staff and contact victim claiming to have treated a relative or friend for COVID-19 and demand payment for treatment.
- Bank/FDIC scams: Scammers impersonate FDIC or bank employees and falsely claim that banks are limiting access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits.
- Investment scams often styled as “research reports,” claiming that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19.
10 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim
- Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails, texts, phone calls and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with, and NEVER give your password, account number or PIN to anyone.
- Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure or treatment. If there is a medical breakthrough, it wouldn’t be reported through unsolicited emails or online ads.
- Rely on official sources for the most up-to-date information on COVID-19. Visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization and your state’s health department websites to keep track of the latest developments.
- Remember that the safest place for your money is in the bank—it’s physically secure and it’s federally insured. When you deposit your money at a bank, you get the comfort of knowing that your funds are secure and insured by the government. You don’t have the same level of protection when your money is outside the banking system.
- Do some research before making a donation. Be wary of any business, charity or individual requesting COVID-19-related payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card or through the mail.
- Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
- Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download malware onto devices or route users to bogus websites. Hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL that you are being routed to. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL. For example: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com.
- Change your security settings to enable multi-factor authentication for accounts that support it. Multi-factor authentication—or MFA—is a second step to verify who you are, like a text with a code.
- Before you make any investments, remember that there is a high potential for fraud right now. You should be wary of any company claiming the ability to prevent, detect or cure coronavirus. For information on how to avoid investment fraud, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.
- Help others by reporting coronavirus scams. Visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov to report suspected or confirmed scams. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest scams by visiting the FTC’s coronavirus page at ftc.gov/coronavirus.
Remember, Peoples Bank will never call, email, text or send social media messages asking for account numbers, Access IDs, passwords, social security numbers, debit card numbers or PINs. If you suspect fraud, contact us right away by calling 877-802-1212.