BBB Alert for an Outbreak of Coronavirus Scams


Rockford, IL – March 19, 2020 – The Better Business Bureau is receiving reports on new scams and misinformation at an alarming rate, and also instances of price gouging. 

While government and health care officials continue to deal with the ever-evolving COVID 19 pandemic; consumers and businesses are facing a wave of scams and fraudulent activity. The scope of new scams being reported range from phony messages about money from the government, fake COVID 19 discounts, miracle cures and cybercrime.

Reports coming into the BBB also include phony offers to consumers for COVID 19 discounts on various services including video streaming and phone services. With recent government announcements of tax filing deadlines extended, and relief checks possibly coming, scammers are seizing on the opportunities being presented by the pandemic to send imposter emails representing the Government.

In some cases, they are using fear of the unknown; in other instances, the necessity for millions of individuals who are now working from home is an open door for cyber-criminals, hackers and other crooks.

“While there are currently no firm plans on how, the government will be issuing $1,000 checks to assist individuals through the hard times caused by the pandemic; there is sure to be a great deal of misinformation that will be disseminated.” Says Dennis Horton, director of the Rockford Regional Office of the Better Business Bureau.“ Already there are fraudulent text messages being sent claiming that their targets are pre-accepted to receive the cash just click on the link” notes Horton.

Links in text messages such as these are designed to install malicious software on your device or steal personal and financial information.

Whenever the details of receiving the assistance money are released consumers can be certain they will not be required to:

  • Pay anything upfront to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
  • Provide your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who asks is a scammer.
  •  Listen to anyone who tells you they can get you the money now. He or she is a scammer.

The check scam is just one example but there are many others. Whether they are text messages, emails or phone calls; their only purpose is to rip-off consumers.

Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker database offers an opportunity for consumers to assist in slowing the growth of this scam and other fraudulent schemes. Individuals can input information about scam calls, emails and text messages they receive. 

By providing the information you can help the BBB investigate and warn others by reporting what you know. The BBB Scam Tracker website also enables consumers to view scam details reported by others.

Horton adds, “Scam Tracker is also a source of information for law enforcement agencies and media outlets.”

BBB TIPS:

  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. It could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying that have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment, or cure claims for the Coronavirus, ask yourself: if there’s been a medical breakthrough, would you be hearing about it for the first time through an ad or sales pitch?
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
  • Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.

For those who are working from home:

  • If something sounds suspicious, confirm it by calling the sender or the business using a previously known phone number. 
  • Don’t click on links in an unexpected email – type the URL for the company into your browser or do a web search to find the right website.
  • Don’t click, download, or open anything that comes from an anonymous sender. This is likely an attempt to gain access to your personal information or install malware on your computer.
  • Be cautious of generic emails. Scammers try to cast a wide net by including little or no specific information in their fake emails. 
  • Move your cursor over the “From” line in the address of an email to see of the shown address complements the pop-up address.

Price Gouging:

BBB urges businesses to avoid the temptation to raise prices during a situation such as a pandemic because is  illegal to do so when a State has declared the State of Emergency, and because it erodes marketplace trust.  Consumers will remember which businesses took advantage of them during a crisis.

Anyone who suspects price gouging during a declared state of emergency should report it to Better Business Bureau by filing a complaint,, or to BBB Ad Truth and to the state attorney general’s office.  

 

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