Are you stir-crazy yet? If so, we get it — nearly six months of lockdowns can make anyone frustrated. And even though plenty of essential businesses are still open (and more nonessential ones re-opening every day), it can be tiring to find that your favorite hangouts like sports bars and the mall are closed after all this time.
But no matter how hard we try, we can’t rely on delivery for everything. Sometimes, the items we want just aren’t available on Amazon. But as long as you have a mask on your face, most businesses will let you in without any issue. Tap or click here to see the best face masks ranked.
Despite lockdown restrictions, state and local authorities have been relatively lax about enforcing mandates like stay-at-home orders and mask-wearing. But if you receive a message out of the blue that says you’ve been fined by the government for leaving your home, don’t panic. It’s a scam — and a really flimsy one at that. Here’s why.
Is Big Brother really watching you leave your house?
People across the country have reported receiving a strange email claiming to come from the federal government. The message will say that you have been “recorded” leaving your home and that you have incurred financial penalties for breaking quarantine rules.
Here’s a quick snippet of what the message looks like from The Verge, which also randomly received the same warning with the subject line CORONAVIRUS ALERT:
If you take the bait and click on the link to pay your fine, you’ll end up on a scam website that will not only take your payment but record your card information.
If you couldn’t tell, this message is pure nonsense. The government doesn’t have security cameras outside your home that could catch you leaving — and even then, any enforcement of lockdown rules would be left to the states themselves.
Want to spot the scam? Just hover your mouse over the link. You’ll find that it doesn’t even lead to the website the text shows. Instead, it goes to su.onamoc.comano.us. We don’t recommend visiting there if you want to protect your data.
If you’re looking for real information on testing, statewide restrictions for travel and more, just visit the CDC’s official COVID-19 homepage for up-to-date news and data.
I fell for the scam! What are my options?
If you’ve been a victim of a COVID-19 scam like this one, here’s how to report it:
- Take a screenshot of the fake email and forward it to email@example.com.
- Call the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 866-720-5721 or submit a tip to justice.gov/DisasterComplaintForm.
- If you lost money from the scam, submit your complaint through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
Because the website that takes your “payment” has all the signs and symptoms of a phishing website, here are some additional steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Call the bank or financial institution associated with your card and let them know you may be at risk for fraud. If you were charged money, dispute the fraudulent charge with an associate.
- Activate two-factor authentication for your bank account to prevent any unauthorized login attempts. Tap or click here to see how to set this up.
- Get in contact with a credit bureau and request a credit freeze until you’re sure that you’re in the clear. Tap or click here to see the benefits of a credit freeze.
It’s a shame that scammers are preying on fear and disruption to our way of life in order to make money. It just goes to show that malicious actors are paying attention to the news — and that they’re willing to say anything if it means making a quick buck off someone’s misery. Know the facts behind COVID-19 and you’ll be much safer from harm.