The South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs (SCDCA) is warning consumers and businesses to be on the lookout for coronavirus scams. No two scams are the same but here are some examples of how fraudsters are trying to separate consumers from their money or personal information during the coronavirus outbreak:
- Fake checks from the government. You may have heard that the federal government will be sending money by check or direct deposit as the coronavirus takes its toll on people’s pocketbooks. Remember, the government will never ask for you to pay anything in order to get the money. Consumers should also beware of someone who promises to get you the money now. The stimulus is expected to rollout to those who qualify in about three weeks, but details are still being worked out. Check irs.gov/coronavirus for updates.
- Phone calls asking for private information. Scammers often pose as government agencies to gain your trust. Lookout for callers pretending to be from well-known health organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). They may try to get you to verify information like your bank account number, Social Security number or credit card information. Never give private information to a cold caller. Instead, hang up and call a number you know belongs to the business/agency.
- Phishing emails or texts. Your inboxes may be getting messages from impostors acting like trustworthy organizations. Remember, don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. Clicking on links in these messages could install malware or other dangerous programs on your computer/digital device. Guard against these scammers by keeping your computer software updated, using security software, changing your passwords at least every three months and using multi-factor authentication.
- Fake charities. There are plenty of people in need during this difficult time. Scammers are looking to take advantage of your generosity and will create fake charities that sound very similar to large, well-known organizations. If you want to make sure a charity is real, visit the FTC’s Donate Wisely page or go to the SC Secretary of State’s website to see if the charity is registered. You can also call 1 (888) 242-7484.
- Offers for a “cure” or vaccination. If you see ads for products that claim to cure or treat coronavirus, run the other way! If there had been a medical breakthrough, you would not be hearing about it through an ad. Also, only take medication/supplements at the recommendation and advisement of your doctor.
Even though SCDCA is working at a limited capacity, consumers can still report scams and identity theft to our Identity Theft Unit. Call (844) TELL DCA (835-5322) or fill out a Scam Report form by visiting our website and clicking on the How Do I… button, then Report a Scam.