Coronavirus disease (2019) Fraud & Scams

In times like these, it can be difficult to separate fact from fiction. Fraudsters are fast to adapt to their own new normal. Fraudulent schemes related to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic have arrived, and they are coming in many forms.

Here's what to know about the COVID-19 scams out there, as well as some precautionary measures you can take to avoid being scammed.

Coronavirus Investment Scams

News coverage of viral updates and pandemics can be an opportunity for scammers to pump inaccurate information into the marketplace to try to manipulate markets and investors. Information such as "this company can prevent, and cure the coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.." This is pure speculation and without basis, and a typical pump-and-dump scheme.

CrowdFunding scams are also lurking around the corner. If you want to donate, do it directly to trusted corporate foundations, NGOs, community org and official government task force/department to pledge your support.

In some isolated cases, quarantine passes are being allegedly 'sold' as well. Quarantine passes are free and you should not pay for it. Better report this to authorities if you encounter such an incident.

Free Payment/Item in exchange for personal info

Scammers know that many individuals and businesses are in desperate need of economic assistance as a result of their ongoing self-distancing orders. They are capitalizing on this situation to steal even more from those who are already suffering.

This can come in the form of an advertisement online or SMS or email, wherein you will be informed that you can get "Free Coronavirus safety mask" in exchange for either your personal details or it asks you to download and install an app.

The app will gain access to your contacts and the cycle repeats itself and reach more potential victims. Another would be a message informing you of a 'government payment/benefit' in exchange for personal info or even your credit card details. Or it can also come in the form of 'fill out a census to get your aid'. Census has nothing to do with any cash aid/benefit.

The government will not ask for your personal information during this crisis, at best they will ask for government issued ID. DSWD and other government agencies has published in their websites guidelines and procedures for cash/aid distribution to LGUs and barangays.

Fake Information and offers

Malicious actors figured they’d capitalize on current social distancing recommendations and self-isolation orders by spreading fake offers.

This comes in the form of entertainment offers such as "free Netflix subscriptions" but the link is obviously doesn't come from Netflix. Another classic phishing scheme which may lead to more problems later on such as compromised financial details or even identity theft.

There are “helpful” apps out there but there are some being advertised that are actually malwares in disguise. They may offer "Curated Coronavirus updates" or a "Corona Virus finder" app. Once again, this is to get personal and financial information.

Fear-based Scams

In these trying times some fraudsters take advantage or use fear to extract information or money from the already paranoid people. Here's an example, this could come in the form of an email, private message, SMS or call.

Just letting you know that there have been scam callers recently who call and say “According to our contact tracing, you have been in close proximity to someone who has been tested positive for COVID-19. This means you now need to self isolate and take the COVID-19 test. I cannot give you any information about the person or the whereabouts of contact due to privacy laws. But you need to be tested within the next 72 hours.

So, can I get the best mailing address for you so that we can send out a testing kit?”

After you give the address, they will ask for your payment card number and details quoting that the test kit and results is a Php2,500.00 charge and is not free.

If you refuse to give them your bank card / credit card details, they threaten saying that there are penalties for not complying.

Just a reminder
- Choose only reliable sources for information on the recent pandemic.
- Inform and educate vulnerable groups such as the elderly regarding these scams.\
- Never give away your personal and financial information to anyone (online/offline).
- Look at spelling and grammatical errors
- And continue to follow social distancing and self isolation measures :)

Those that want to know infections in their area are most at risk. Remember, only subscribe to reliable sources, in this case go straight to government websites/accounts. Please be wary. And if you know any vulnerable people who would fall for this scam... alert them to it.

The DOH Philippines provides live updates and guidance on the pandemic. SEC Philippines is the only source to check for scam advisories.

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Coronavirus disease (2019) Fraud & Scams Coronavirus disease (2019) Fraud & Scams Reviewed by Vernon Joseph Go on Tuesday, April 14, 2020 Rating: 5

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