Scam alert: Covid-19 related fraud is proliferating


young woman at home with a phone and a credit card in her hand

In early April, we noted that there has never been a crisis or emergency that criminals won’t try to exploit and we posted a roundup of fraud schemes: Be on your guard for coronavirus scammers, skimmers & phishers! It’s time to update that list. Criminals are only getting smarter and more sophisticated about capitalizing on our coronavirus fears and the way we’ve adjusted our lives. Here are reports on some of the newer scams that authorities are seeing, along with tips on how to avoid being victimized.

Here are some of the common scams that the Department of Justice warns about:

  • Antibody testing fraud scheme
  • Unsolicited healthcare fraud schemes
  • Cryptocurrency fraud schemes including blackmail attempts, work from home scams, paying for non-existent treatments or equipment, or investment scams.
  • Calls and e-mails from imposters claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees
  • Robocall scams selling PPE, face masks, or other medical devices
  • “Free” COVID-19 tests if you supply Medicare information
  • Fake charities seeking donations or your bank / credit card info.
  • Imposter calls promising CARES Act stimulus payments or demanding refunds for a supposed over payment
  • Fake websites and apps claiming to be associated with CARES Act programs.

FBI Says Increased Use of Mobile Banking Apps Could Lead to Exploitation
Studies of US financial data indicate a 50% surge in mobile banking since the beginning of 2020. Additionally, studies show that 36% of Americans plan to use mobile tools to conduct banking activities, and 20% plan to visit branch locations less often. The FBI warns the public to be aware of fake banking apps and to be cautious about downloading apps on mobile devices that might contain banking-related malware. The FBI recommends only obtaining smartphone apps from trusted sources like official app stores or directly from bank websites. They also advise using Two-Factor Authentication and using strong passwords and good security.

FBI Sees Rise in Online Shopping Scam
The FBI reports an increasing number of people are ordering goods online from fraudulent vendors and the goods are never relieved. Victims are being directed to fraudulent websites from ads on social media platforms and popular online search engines that offer lower than usual pricing on such items as gym equipment, small appliances, tools and furniture. Many of the websites used content and contact information copied from legitimate sites and posed as US companies. Here are some fraud indicators. Instead of .com, the fraudulent websites used the Internet site domain extensions of .club and .top. Most of the site URLs (addresses) were purchased in the last 6-months.

The FBI offers these tips to avoid being victimized

  • Do your homework on the retailer to ensure it is legitimate.
  • Check the Whois Public Internet Directory for the retailer’s domain registration information.
  • Conduct a business inquiry of the online retailer at the Better Business Bureau.
  • Check other websites regarding the company for reviews and complaints.
  • Check the contact details of the website on the “Contact Us” page, specifically the address, email, and phone number, to confirm whether the retailer is legitimate.
  • Be wary of online retailers offering goods at significantly discounted prices.
  • Be wary of online retailers who use a free email service instead of a company email address.
  • Don’t judge a company by their website; flashy websites can be set up and taken down quickly.

Monitoring and reporting fraud schemes

Check out the FBI Coronavirus website periodically for updated fraud scheme reports. If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submit the NCDF Web Complaint Form.

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Coronavirus Stay-at-Home Care Kit


bored couple at home furing coronavirus

If you are one of the millions who are confined to home during the Coronavirus outbreak, we have scoured the web for some of the best advice, tips and tools to help you make the most of things .. from working at home, keeping safe, stocking up, keeping kids safe and amused and dealing with anxiety and boredom.

Working from home

8 Tips To Make Working From Home Work For You – “Never before have workers telecommuted on such a broad scale. Millions of people are trying to work from home — if they can, of course. NPR’s Life Kit wants to help WFH work for you, especially if you’re doing so for the first time.”

Working From Home Because of COVID-19? These Tech Ideas Can Make It EasierConsumer Reports offers tools and services, to help you  increase productivity.

How to Set Up a Home Workstation to Avoid Muscle Strain, Headaches, and Sore Eyes – If the coronavirus outbreak is forcing you to work from home, follow CR’s advice for your home office, kitchen, or bedroom

How to Stay Sane When Working From Home With Kids – tips from Wirecutter

Keeping safe!

These Common Household Products Can Destroy the Novel CoronavirusConsumer Reports shows you how to use them and tells you which products to stay away from.

How to Clean and Disinfect Yourself, Your Home, and Your Stuff – Wired magazine offers their best in-depth best practices for keeping yourself (and just about everything else) clean and virus-free.

How You Can Kill Coronavirus in Your Car Without Damaging Interior Surfaces

Should You Disinfect Your Phone? Here’s How.

List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 – EPA.gov lists common household products and their effectiveness in protecting against Coronavirus.

Beware: Scams & hoaxes

Beware of Products Touting False Coronavirus Claims – Regulators and watchdogs warn consumers of hucksters playing on fears to make profits.

Phishing in the Time of COVID-19: How to Recognize Malicious Coronavirus Phishing Scams – good tips from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

How to Avoid Coronavirus Phishing Scams – Watch out for a surge in emails from cybercriminals pitching COVID-19 health information and fake cures

Stocking Up

Grocery shopping during the coronavirus: Wash your hands, keep your distance and limit trips Washington Post offers tips, including ideas for people who are 65 or older, or immune compromised.  .

How to Protect Yourself From Coronavirus When Grocery ShoppingConsumer Reports offers precautions to take whether you shop in-store or online

Grocery rules for your coronavirus lockdown: Buy beans, freeze milk, don’t hoard, and more – Who knew you could freeze milk? CNN offers tips for the best foods to buy when  you’re going to be stuck at home.

Wirecutter: The Best Meal Kit Delivery Services

Keeping Kids Safe & Engaged

How to Cope at Home With Kids During the Coronavirus Outbreak – Keep your family healthy—physically and mentally—and minimize spread of the virus

How Parents Can Keep Kids Busy (and Learning) in Quarantine – from The Atlantic: As American schools close, parents are suddenly faced with the challenge of keeping their children occupied at home. Here are some ideas.

Wirecutter: Our Favorite Educational Apps and Learning Games for Kids

PopSugar: A List of Indoor Activities That Will Keep Kids Entertained While Stuck at Home

Passing the Time

New York Times: Comforting Streaming TV Shows for Stressful Times

Time: A Guide to the Most Calming, Anxiety-Free Content You Can Stream Right Now

NPR’s Fresh Air Archive

Fun for you & for the kids: Monterey Bay Live Web Cams

NY Times: Can I Jog Outside? Is That Drinking Fountain Safe? Exercise in the Time of Coronavirus

Bicycling: How to Ride Safely Amid Coronavirus Concerns

A 20-minute workout is perfect for social distancing – video and tips from the Washington Post

Dealing with stress

Coronavirus anxiety: Why the outbreak feeds worries and five simple ways to reduce coronavirus anxiety

Cleveland Clinic: 5 Ways to Manage Stress During the Coronavirus Outbreak – Tips for preventing a mental meltdown

Anxiety can be a general feeling of apprehension, fear, nervousness, or worry. It can also be a sudden attack of panicky feelings, or fear of a certain situation or object. Learn more about anxiety disorders and treatment options from Medline.