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Security & privacy

COVID scams aren’t going away – Watch out for these common ones

Vaccinations have been administered to millions of Americans, accelerating the timeline for when things will get back to relative normality. Even though states like Texas and New York are drastically relaxing measures, scammers still use the pandemic as a criminal vehicle.

Taking advantage of people’s fears and misinformation, cybercriminals continue to use COVID-19 to peddle malicious apps, online scams and mail fraud. The problem has become so dangerous that the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an advisory.

Criminals adapt their tactics and methods according to the shift in vaccinations, government statements or public perception. Even some contact tracing apps have been leaking sensitive info. Let’s take a look at some of the most viral coronavirus-related scams.

Here are the details

Unfortunately, a large portion of potential victims is older. “In May, as we celebrate Older Americans Month, remember that one of the best ways to help your friends and family is to pass on what you know about how to spot and avoid Coronavirus-related scams,” the FTC explained.

Here are some of the current COVID-19 scams to watch for:

  • You must pay for a vaccine or to sign up

Vaccines in the U.S. are free of charge. And anyone of age can get one when it’s their turn. There is no fee for getting the injection, and there is also no fee for signing up. If anybody tries to charge you for either, it is a scam.

  • Government agents collecting payment

Scammers contact victims and pose as government agents to ask for payment — in cash, gift cards, wire transfer, or cryptocurrency. One thing to remember is the government will never ask you to pay in any of those ways, but scammers will.

  • FEMA needs your help

No, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) doesn’t require your help for a new government program. This scam tells people that FEMA needs donations to cover the cost of funerals for COVID-19 victims. If you have never registered with FEMA, the agency will never contact you in this manner.

Do your research

The FTC recommends that you do research on a company or brand when shopping online — especially if you have never used a particular service before.

If you find yourself shopping on a site you don’t usually do business with, search online for their name plus ‘complaint,’ ‘review’ and ‘scam’ explains the agency. Where possible, make sure that the webpage is secure with a lock icon in the address bar or the URL starts with HTTPS.

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