Coronavirus stimulus check scams, other COVID-19 hoaxes, consumer warnings

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Friday, March 27, 2020
Watch out for scammers claiming to be calling about stimulus
Watch out for scammers claiming to be calling about stimulus funds.

As the world copes with the spread of the novel coronavirus, scams and hoaxes have popped up around the country related to the pandemic.

Here's a roundup of things to be on the lookout for. Click on each subheadline for more information:

Phone scams about coronavirus stimulus check

Scammers are already trying to take advantage of the COVID-19 fears and claim to be calling about the federal government's stimulus package.

ABC11 and the Better Business Bureau have received dozens of emails from viewers who got calls that claim you can get your money right away if you just give the caller your debit or credit card information.

Scammers are calling claiming you qualify for $1,000 to $14,000 in relief from COVID-19 from the federal government. In some cases, the scammer claims it's grant money.

If you get a suspicious call, remember these takeaways: If it sounds too good to be true, it is. Also, you never pay money to get money, that's a sure sign it's a scam. Plus, there are no grants related to the novel coronavirus for individuals, so that's a sure sign this is a rip-off.

Bogus products that claim to prevent or cure coronavirus

As coronavirus continues to spread around the world, consumer advocates are warning of coronavirus cons.

"We're going to find people who advertise miracle cures, or have some prevention that the government won't tell you about or that the pharmacy companies are keeping hidden," Andrew Goode of the Better Business Bureau said.

Don't fall for it. Treatments for coronavirus are still being developed and there are not yet any government-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent it. Do not buy any so-called vaccines, drugs, or products that claim to help with coronavirus.

"Another thing people should do is check with their doctors," he said.

Amazon said it has pulled more than 1 million products for falsely advertising effectiveness against the coronavirus or for price gouging. Some third-party sellers are reportedly pricing face masks as much as five times their normal price or charging exorbitant shipping costs.

FCC warning about testing kit, vaccine scam calls

The Federal Communications Commission released examples of spam calls consumers are getting across the country, including a call about testing kits. Another scam call involves a bogus coronavirus vaccine.

"People are getting calls purporting to come from the CDC and the individual saying reserve your vaccine. Give us your credit card number and your social security number," said Rob D'Ovidio of Drexel University's Cyber Crime and Forensics Institute. D'Ovidio said his own family received an email attempting to extort money with a disturbing threat.

"The threat was that someone's going to essentially invade your home...and they're going to infect your family members with the COVID-19 virus," he said. The email said that will happen unless the family pays $4,000 within 24 hours.

Another to watch out for is bogus charities and fundraisers related to COVID-19.

"Stick to bona fide charities that you know that you could go to their websites directly and not click on the link in an email asking you to donate some sort of money," said Wray.

Law enforcement is urging Americans to be aware of a surge in scams related to the coronavirus.

Social security scams related to coronavirus

One fake phishing call ABC7NY encountered pretended to be from the Social Security Administration which threatened to suspend social security due to the coronavirus.

"Remember the government will never call you for your personal information or ask for money," Chairman of the FCC Ajit Pai said.

Pai says the rash of coronavirus calls, texts and emails all have the same goal: "They want you to give over your name, your social security number or they want your money."