US, WASHINGTON (ORDO NEWS) — While the world is struggling to contain the COVID-19 pandemic, people are trying to find reliable information about the spread of the disease, how you can protect yourself, where you can get tested, and so on.
Unfortunately, spammers and scammers around the world take advantage of this situation to cash in on people, many of whom in these troubled times are more vulnerable to their heinous frauds than usual. A number of government agencies and other organizations are trying to deal with fraudsters. But there is something that you can do yourself, so as not to be deceived.
Here’s what you need to know about COVID-19 fraud, as well as the precautions you can take to avoid becoming a victim of cheaters during an outbreak of coronavirus.
You cannot buy a “medicine” from COVID-19
Many cases of COVID-19 fraud have been linked to companies and individuals trying to sell products that they claim to prevent infection or cure a new coronavirus that has already killed over 100 people in the United States alone. Fraudsters sell all kinds of fake drugs from colloidal silver to cow dung. But this new coronavirus is exactly what’s new, so no one knows the cure for it yet. Vaccine trials are already underway, but concrete results will be at best in a few months.
“I have observed this throughout my career as a consumer advocate: fraudsters try to quickly cash in on people when they are most vulnerable,” said California Democrat and Congresswoman Katie Porter, who recently pressed the director of the Center for Monitoring and Prevention Robert Redfield’s illnesses along with coronavirus-related issues, eventually forcing him to commit himself to a free coronavirus test for every American, regardless of his insurance.
“Many Americans are now trying to cope with many problems at once: to maintain a social distance, to look after children at home, to solve the situation with potentially missed salaries, and so on. The last thing they want to worry about right now is that some attackers will profit from them.”
The government is fighting fraudsters in other ways. The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration recently sent alerts to seven different companies, including Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd. and The Jim Bakker Show, which advertised their products, claiming without any scientific basis that they could cure the coronavirus or prevent infection. If these companies continue to resort to such false advertising, the Federal Trade Commission may apply to the federal court and issue an order obliging them to return the funds to the buyers.
“The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) believes that selling and advertising counterfeit COVID-19 products is a public health risk,” said Stephen M. Hahn, Commissioner for Medicine and MD, regarding warning emails. “We have an aggressive surveillance program where we regularly monitor online resources that sell fake healthcare products, especially in times of such a serious public health threat as we are now.”
Why are public health authorities so worried about fake drugs and drugs? If people buy these products in the hope of cure or protection from the virus, they may begin to neglect the rules of social distance, risking infecting others.
The Securities and Exchange Commission also published recommendations on investments in products of open joint-stock companies that allegedly treat or prevent coronavirus (especially companies whose shares are very low), saying that buyers should be very careful about organizations that make unfounded promises , as those “may be part of a fraudulent scheme called pumping and dumping.”
Also beware of fraudulent texts and emails
Phishing scams, when a scammer sends you a letter or text designed to trick you into sharing your personal data, in recent years has become very sophisticated and may even contain logos, images and email addresses used by official companies. Similarly, phone calls and messages from scammers may contain your full name or phone number, which should convince you that the message is real.
In order to detect email fraud and the like, special attention should be paid to standard greetings (such as “Hello, Sir / Madam”), requests for confirmation of personal information, as well as letters related to updating your payment information. In suspicious cases, you should try to establish whether the letter really comes from the specified company.
If the language of the message creates a sense of urgency, if they try to force you to transmit information in order to prevent some kind of disaster with your data, this may well be a hoax. If you received a suspicious letter from a specific company or even a friend or employer, contact them by phone or somehow verify the truth of the letter before you do anything.
According to experts, in the coming months there will be so many fraud attempts related to COVID-19 that everyone should be vigilant. “I would like to tell people that all unexpected attempts to contact you or sell you something should be taken with extreme skepticism,” said Linda Sherry, director of Consumer Action Consumer Protection.
The organization offers a monthly newsletter with a list of new popular types of fraud to be wary of. “People should check for such offers by hanging up or deleting a letter and then contacting a particular company to make sure that they came to you from it,” she says. Of course, the best way to deal with scammers is to not respond to them at all. If you’ve never heard of people who are talking to you.
Protect your data online
As with all phishing scams, you can protect yourself from COVID-19 fraud by resorting to a combination of a number of preparatory measures and some skepticism.
The Federal Trade Commission recommends that Internet users comply with the appropriate online security rules, including backing up personal data, and, when possible, using two-factor authentication, so that fraudsters find it more difficult to reach your accounts, even if they still manage to find out your username, password or other personal information.
But even if you think that you already accidentally transmitted your personal information or someone received it besides you – for example, your social security number or bank account information – you can visit the website of the Federal Trade Commission dedicated to the theft of personal data and protect yourself from even more harm, and also inform companies that your information has been compromised.
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The article is written and prepared by our foreign editors from different countries around the world – material edited and published by Ordo News staff in our US newsroom press.