Attention: COVID-19 related phishing scams and how to avoid them

Wed, 04/29/2020 - 2:54pm

In these unprecedented times, Placer Title Company wants to alert our clients to an alarming trend. We're doing everything we can to protect and inform our customers from wire fraud. However, we’re seeing scammers capitalize on COVID-19 to take advantage of many who are feeling more vulnerable than ever. There is an overwhelming amount of coronavirus-related information being distributed daily, which gives scammers the perfect opportunity to exploit public fears about the virus. 

We do everything we can to ensure our team members and customers are educated on wire fraud and the reality of doing business online. As more people are working from home and trying to stay safe, we want to unpack this new layer to online scams for our Realtors, lenders and customers. Knowing what to look for could protect you and your clients from losing money or personal information. 

The Federal Trade Commission has already received more than 18,000 coronavirus-related scam reports, and that number will undoubtedly rise. So far, such scams have collectively cost Americans $13.4 million. 

Trending scams to be aware of :

Relief payment messages from “government agencies”- Beware of fake government messages offering quick relief payments, cash grants or any type of money due to the coronavirus. The FTC is getting a lot of reports about fraudulent calls, texts and emails coming from people pretending to be from the Social Security Administration, IRS, Census, USCIS and the FDIC.

Treatment/Health Advice Scams - Unfortunately, scammers are taking advantage of this health crisis by offering fake cures, treatments, insurance, protective equipment and other unsolicited medical advice. In some cases, they will ask for payment or other personal information, tricking victims into thinking they will get something in return. Ignore calls from anyone claiming to be a medical professional, Medicare representative, or anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19. 

Workplace Policy Scams - Cybercriminals are targeting employees’ workplace email accounts. If you receive a suspicious email from your boss, HR or anyone else that announces a new policy, shares a link or asks for money, pick up the phone to confirm with them.

Social Security Scams - Social Security recipients have reported receiving official looking letters saying that benefits have been suspended due to COVID-19 unless they call a certain number. Social Security benefits are not affected by the coronavirus, so be on guard for this type of attempt to collect your personal information and money. 

Charity Scams - Scammers know that people are looking for ways to give during this time. Many people have lost their income and are battling health problems, so those who are wanting to donate can quickly fall victim to a scam if not careful. If you receive a call, text or email from someone taking donations on behalf of a charity, do your research. If the charity is legitimate, they will have an official website where you can donate. 

CDC Alerts - Cybercriminals have sent phishing emails designed to look like they’re from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control. The email might falsely claim to link to a list of coronavirus cases in your area. 

Financial/Investment Scams - With uncertainty in financial markets, scammers are out in full force, looking for those who are desperate to secure what they can. The FDIC is warning people about scammers using its name for fraudulent purposes.

FTC, FCC and SEC tips to avoid coronavirus scams
  • Avoid online offers for coronavirus-related vaccines or cures; they aren't legitimate.
  • Don't click on links or download files from unexpected emails, even if the email address looks like a company or person you recognize. 
  • Don't share personal information such as Social Security or credit card numbers in response to an unsolicited call, text or email.
  • Be wary of fundraising calls or emails seeking money for coronavirus victims or disease research, especially if they pressure you to act fast and request payment by prepaid debit cards or gift cards.
  • Stay vigilant and guard your information. If something seems suspicious, verify before sending money or disclosing your personal information.

Placer Title is here to always be your trusted partner and resource whenever you need us. Please reach out to us if you have any questions about a suspicious request or are looking for more ways to protect yourself or your clients. As an essential business, we are still here to be your title and closing expert for any real estate transaction you have.