In an attempt to gather as much information about the spread of the coronavirus as possible, agencies such as the CDC reached out to citizens through social media platforms at the height of the pandemic. Unfortunately, criminals used this as an opportunity to capture personal data or funds from the public by sending out bogus COVID-19 vaccine surveys, prompting victims to fill out fields and share information such as social security and credit card numbers.
By capturing personal data, scammers can use your information for identity theft crimes. For instance, they might take out credit cards in your name using your social security number and rack up significant charges. Leveraging the emotionally-charged circumstances surrounding the pandemic, criminals use specific phrasing to generate a sense of urgency.
Types of COVID-19 Scams
Criminals are always seeking new ways to steal and commit fraud. For instance, we have witnessed elaborate hoaxes related to personal protective equipment and other products in short supply, scams focused on financial aid by governments, the sale of fake remedies and treatments, fake vaccines, vaccination certificates, and bogus test reports. Scams can come in several forms, including text messages, social media, and email. These cybercrimes began in the US and Europe and have spread through different countries, but one of the most concerning aspects of this crisis and the public it’s targeting is that, like the virus itself, the impact is global.
In some countries, this type of scam has even taken a wicked turn: scammers take advantage of grieving families whose loved ones have died of COVID-19 by offering to pay burial expenses through some type of assistance program, which is obviously a fraud.
Of course, scams aren’t always obvious to everyone—especially those who are experiencing a sudden loss or have been otherwise emotionally impacted by the pandemic. Until herd immunity is reached, hoaxes will likely linger, but you can avoid them with the following tips.
Ways to Avoid Coronavirus Hoaxes
- Never click on links in communications claiming to be a vaccine survey, unless the message comes from a known and verified source such as the CDC.
- If a survey offers a “free” reward for participation, it may be best to avoid it altogether. You may be prompted to provide your credit card information and address, for example. No legitimate survey should ever ask for a credit card or bank account in exchange for a reward that’s actually free.
- Keep in mind that fraudulent operations may appear to come from the laboratories that produce vaccines, governments, banks, mail companies and social networks. Look for variations in logos, spelling, or links which could indicate an impersonation.
- Remember, companies will never contact you to ask for your username and password.
- None of the vaccine manufacturers offer cash or rewards in exchange for receiving the vaccination.
- Your vaccination card could contain personally identifiable information. For this reason, you should avoid posting photos of your card on social media.
During the pandemic, it isn’t just your physical wellness that matters, but also your financial health. With these tactics in mind, you can take a proactive approach towards avoiding COVID-related scams.