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7 Tips for Avoiding a Coronavirus Scam

Money Talks News logo Money Talks News 3/16/2020 Miranda Marquit
a man wearing a white shirt: shutterstock_1410240422 © fizkes / Shutterstock.com shutterstock_1410240422

The biggest news story right now is a new disease that is rapidly circling the globe, leading to more than 162,000 confirmed cases and more than 6,000 known deaths as of Sunday.

Unfortunately, anytime there’s a situation like this coronavirus pandemic, scammers emerge, trying to take advantage of misinformation and fear surrounding the crisis.

Use the following tips to help you avoid falling for a coronavirus scam.

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1. Check email sender addresses

The World Health Organization (WHO) is warning that a phishing scam is underway involving online scammers pretending to be part of the WHO.

So, double-check the email addresses of senders. Make sure the address following that @ symbol is official. For example, official WHO email addresses end with “@who.int.” Emails ending in anything else — such as “@who.com” or “@who.org” — are likely a scam.

2. Don’t click through links in an email

Clicking on malicious links in an email can download a virus onto your computer, or take you to a phony webpage designed to trick you into providing sensitive personal information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests using your internet browser to go directly to the websites of official organizations like the WHO (www.who.int) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (www.cdc.gov) for coronavirus information.

3. Stay away from online vaccination offers

The FTC also warns against online offers for vaccinations. As of this writing, a vaccine hasn’t been developed, and there are no prescriptions or over-the-counter products that can prevent or treat COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.

4. Avoid giving personal information

Don’t give out your personal information if it seems inappropriate, especially if someone contacts you and asks for it.

Realize that there is a great deal of public safety information about this coronavirus, and you don’t need to provide your username or password to access this information.

Related: 10 Ways Retailers Trick You Into Spending More

5. Be wary of ‘investment opportunities’ related to the coronavirus

Just as there are bogus claims of vaccines and medications that can stop COVID-19, there are also investment scams trying to convince you to part with your money.

The Securities and Exchange Commission warns that fraudsters are circulating claims of companies on the verge of a breakthrough in developing a prevention or treatment for COVID-19, encouraging you to invest in microcap stocks that are likely little more than “pump and dump” schemes that could result in big losses for you. (Article continues after video.)

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6. Carefully vet charities before donating

During times like these, scammers take advantage of crowdfunding sites and the human desire to help others by donating to charities. Fake charities pop up looking for your money.

The FTC warns against making donations to charities that insist that you buy and send gift cards, wire money or give cash. And, again, you are urged to remain vigilant against crowdfunding campaigns that claim they have a vaccine or some other cure for the coronavirus disease.

For more tips on vetting nonprofit organizations, check out “6 Tips to Donate to Charity the Smart Way.”

7. Stay away from those who use pressure tactics

Don’t feel like you have to rush into anything. Many people feel anxious right now, and you might feel that you’re “missing out” on something if you don’t act quickly.

As Money Talks News founder Stacy Johnson writes in “10 Golden Rules to Avoid Getting Scammed“:

“The easiest way to steal someone’s money — other than perhaps with a gun — is to force them into a quick decision.”

Whether it’s a scam claiming a limited number of available test kits or vaccines, or a phony investment report insisting you’ll miss a windfall, don’t give in to scare tactics. If someone insists that you have to decide immediately, it’s probably a scam.

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