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Posted on: March 25, 2020

Beware of Coronavirus Scams

Coronavirus scams

In the best of times and in the worst of times, some people will try to take advantage of others. Law enforcement agencies and the media are reporting several types of scams related to COVID-19 (coronavirus).

Beware of calls, texts or emails offering vaccines or coronavirus cures. The caller may claim the cure was just discovered and there are limited supplies. They prey on community fears, claiming you have been exposed to the virus and must act fast. 

Other scams will claim to be a medical clinic; stating a family member has been diagnosed with coronavirus, but they can’t get care until they pay a medical bill. The caller will ask for a credit card number to help cover the medical costs.

Phishing emails may claim to be from a reputable source, for example the Center for Disease Control, a health department or a medical clinic. They’ll invite you to click a link which may corrupt your computer. Others will claim to be from a charity, seeking donations to fight the coronavirus or to raise funds for research or support of community members. 

Follow these steps to prevent becoming a victim of a scam.

  • Slow Down! Avoid emails that insist you act now. Phishing emails try to create a sense of urgency or demand immediate action. The goal is to get you to click on a link and provide personal information. Instead, delete the message.
  • If you are not sure about the email or phone call, call a friend or family member before responding. Anyone asking you to pay over the phone or internet with MoneyGram, Western Union, iTunes, or any gift card is likely a scam.
  • Rather than donating through an email solicitation or phone call, contact the charity directly instead of giving to a stranger on the phone or to an email address you may not recognize. 
  • Beware of online requests for personal information. A coronavirus-themed email that seeks personal information like your Social Security number, banking information or login information is a phishing scam. Legitimate government agencies won’t ask for that information. Never respond to the email with your personal data.
  • Check the email address or link. Inspect a link by hovering your cursor over the URL to see where it leads. Sometimes, it’s obvious the web address is not legitimate. Phishers can create links that closely resemble legitimate addresses. Delete the email.
  • Watch for spelling and grammatical mistakes. If an email includes spelling, punctuation or grammar errors, it’s likely a sign you’ve received a phishing email. Delete it.
  • Look for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Greetings like “Dear sir or madam” signal an email is not legitimate.

If you think you may have been a victim of a scam, call the Minnesota Attorney General’s office at 651-296-3353 or 1-800-657-3787.  

To learn more about scams and fraud, contact the Minnesota AARP office at 1-866-554-5381 or visit www.aarp.org/fraud or www.consumer.gov.

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