The Better Business Bureau continues to receive reports on new scams and misinformation, as well as instances of price gouging. (MORE ON PRICE GOUGING BELOW)
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. A range of new scams are being reported ranging from phony messages about money from the government, fake COVID 19 discounts, miracle cures and cybercrime.
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 there are reports that 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 Steve Bernas, president and CEO of the Better Business Bureau serving Chicago and Northern Illinois.“ 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 Bernas.
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.
- Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now 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 Trackerdatabase 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.
- Bernas adds, “Scam Tracker is also a source of information for law enforcement agencies and media outlets.”
- 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.
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.