April 17, 2020
Written by Zack Feldman, Technology Manager and Alberto Zazueta, Technology Intern
In what has become an all too typical scenario, a new source of money creates a new opportunity for scammers to cheat people. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, malicious scammers are on the rise. A recent opportunity arises from the Economic Impact Payments to be distributed from the IRS to eligible individuals. These are the $1,200 per eligible taxpayer plus $500 per eligible dependent payments, authorized to be paid under the recently passed CARES Act.
Many of the scams promise individuals expedited payment if they provide their banking information. They can contact you in many ways, including through text messages, email, and phone calls. Our intention with this commentary is to share with you some information that can be helpful when trying to filter out the top scams around COVID-19.
What types of scams should you look out for? Below, we have compiled a list of the most frequent COVID-19 scams today.
Fraudulent Text Messages
Scam text messages come in many forms, so it is important to stay vigilant. For example, you may receive a text that states “Free Netflix”, “Goodwill Government Payments”, or “Mandatory Online COVID-19 Testing”. The common theme is each of these messages will usually contain some sort of link in them, prompting you to click. DO NOT click on the links. Be sure to analyze all links sent via text. Below is one example.
If you closely analyze the link, you will see that it is not from a valid Netflix site. Netflix.com is the proper site. Most of these messages will come from unknown numbers; however, some can be sent from people in your contact list. In either case, the best course of action is to not click on the link and instead go directly to the website to see if that offer is available to you.
Emails are another channel with which scams are sent. The theme and content in the emails are very similar to fraudulent text messages. The fake email will offer some sort of incentive to click the link, or it may provide fake news/alarming content in general.
Things To Check
- Senders email: Check that the sender is a trusted sender by verifying the sender’s email address. You can do this in many ways but, in most cases, you can hover over the sender’s name on your computer or by tapping the name if on mobile.
- Signature: Check that the email signature matches a prior email received from the sender.
- Grammar: A vast majority of phishing emails contain spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors.
- Links: Look out for the links to websites or downloads. Hover over the link without clicking it. This should tell you exactly where it will send you if you click it. Before you click, also double check that the site is a legitimate website. For example, mraassociates.com might have an extra letter or a missing letter and look like this: mraasociates.com. It may also have .net instead of .com. These differences inform you that the email is fraudulent.
If anything seems incorrect, count it as a red flag, and do not interact with the email. Best practice is to immediately delete the email from your inbox.
Fraudulent Phone Calls
Fraudulent phone calls have also been circulating. Do not give out any personal information over the phone. Keep a lookout for robotic or automated phone calls. Automated phone calls will urge you to press a number on your keypad in order to interact or be transferred to a human representative. It is best not to interact with the call or representatives on the call in any way.
A series of fraudulent mobile/computer applications have also been distributed. Typically, the applications come in the form of COVID-19 case tracking apps. Some apps have gone as far as to claim that downloading the application will prevent you from getting sick by using some sort of anti-virus software. None of these are real.
IRS Communication Specifically
Remember, the IRS will never call, text, email, or contact you on social media with a request for personal or bank account information, to demand immediate payment using a credit or debit card, or with threats of law enforcement action. Do not respond if you receive one of these communications.
For more information you can visit the following websites:
As always, if you have any questions or concerns please reach out to one of your MRA team members.
Bisson, D (March 30, 2020). COVID-19 Scam Roundup – March 30, 2020. Retrieved on April 13, 2020 from https://www.tripwire.com/state-of-security/security-awareness/covid-19-scam-roundup-week-of-3-23-20/