Fraudsters are exploiting the current pandemic with a sharp rise in new coronavirus-related scams.

Scammers are using emails, phone calls and text messages to falsely claim they have information about cures for the coronavirus, sell medical supplies, ask for donations to fake charities or ask for personal information for people to receive money from the federal stimulus bill.

“Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both,” the FBI said in a March 20 press release. “Don’t let them.”

Suspicious links and attachments can compromise a person’s laptop or phone. Phishing scams, or fake websites that are designed to mimic banks or government agencies, attempt to extract personal or financial information that can lead to identity theft.

“Unscrupulous scammers are taking advantage of the news of the novel coronavirus by trying to lure people into unknowingly providing their personal information,” said Rosanna Rosado, New York Secretary of State, in a press release. “Taking the necessary precaution to avoid coronavirus scams can help protect your hard-earned money and your identity.” 

Here are some simple steps residents can take to avoid novel coronavirus scams.

  • Vaccinations, proven treatments, or preventative medical measures would not be announced by an email or phone call but through official government means. If an email or phone call claims to be able to give more information, do not click on any links, call any phone number or reveal personal or financial information. 
  • Emails claiming to be official correspondence from the CDC may provide links that could malware. For all up-to-date information, go to the official CDC or NYS Department of Health websites or call the coronavirus hotline at 1(888)364-3065. 
  • Emails, texts or phone calls that ask for verification of personal or financial information or account login details are phishing scams. No federal or financial institute would ask for this information through these unsecured platforms. 
    • This includes release of the stimulus checks, updates on the status of the checks and disbursement, which will all be conducted through the IRS website
  • Emails or phone calls claiming to represent charities or relief funds would not demand or ask for immediate payment or financial information. All charities and funds should be researched and all donations should be conducted through reputable platforms. 
  • Before purchasing any products, research sellers by looking up the company’s name, phone number, and email address alongside words such as “review,” “complaint,” or “scam.” If nothing suspicious is reported, still keep records of purchase and transaction for any potential issues. 
  • Hang up on robocallers. They may claim to have treatments or vaccinations for the coronavirus or work-at-home schemes. Do not press any numbers if the caller prompts you to do so; this is likely to lead to more robocalls. 
  • Claims of “investment opportunities” for stock of companies relating to coronavirus research are likely to be false. Do not provide personal or financial information to buy these stocks unless it is from a reputable and researched platform. 

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Julia-Anna Searson
Julia-Anna is a Riverhead native and a recent graduate of Stony Brook University, with a degree in Biology and minor in Anthropology. She currently lives in Cutchogue.