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If there’s one thing we’ve learned this year it’s that times of crisis can bring out the best and worst in people. Unfortunately when it comes to scammers during COVID-19 they continue to show their worst, while treating people like prey during these vulnerable times. Last week the FTC confirmed that COVID-19 scams have been run through Facebook and WhatsApp to collect personal information from their users.

Whether you do use Facebook or WhatsApp or not, you should still be aware of what phishing scams may look like because they can easily be sent through any communications platform.

What these COVID-19 scams look like:

  • Messages will often appear to be from a big name brand like PepsiCo, Walmart, or Target
  • Messages will appear to be some sort of outreach initiative with the goal of helping those in need through either giveaways, grants, or coupons
  • You will be requested to share your personal information through a link or survey, or be asked to share the message with a number of your contacts

What to do if you recognize a scam:

  • Report the scam attempt to the FTC
  • Delete the message
  • Block the number if it’s unknown
  • If you received the message from a friend who innocently thought they were sending a helpful link, CALL them to let them know it is not legitimate, advise them to also report the scam and not provide their information to the requester – You’ll want to call them to verify they’re the one that sent you the message and that their number hasn’t been hacked.

What not to do:

  • Don’t click on unverified links shared through text or social media
  • Do not share any personal information (like date of birth, social security number, or address) through unverified online or over-the-phone sources
  • Don’t share or forward the messages to your friends
  • Do not transfer money to an unverified source through Western Union, Money Gram, gift card or anything similar.

For some more examples of known phishing scams take a look at our previous post here that outlines other scams that may still be ongoing. If you want to stay updated on new scam tactics as they’re discovered you can subscribe to Consumer Alerts from the FTC.

 

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