The coronavirus pandemic has been raging on American shores for several months, but scammers are still finding new ways to exploit the panic, fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus to con people out of their money. The latest in a string of coronavirus scams involves a simple text message with criminal intent.
Here’s all you need to know about the coronavirus text scams.
The COVID-19 Contact Scam
The scam starts out with the victim receiving an alarming text message informing them that someone they’ve recently been in contact with is infected with COVID-19. They are then told to self-quarantine and to get tested for the virus.
Here is the actual text from one of these scams:
“Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested.”
The text also includes a link for the recipient to click for more information. Many unsuspecting people who read these messages innocently click on the link and play right into the scammers’ hands. The link provides the scammer with access to the victim’s device. The scammer can then scrape the victim’s personal information off the phone and use it to empty the victim’s accounts, open lines of credit in their name or even steal their identity.
The Stimulus Payment Scam
This scam also begins with the victim receiving a text message, but this time the text states that the victim needs to take an online test to receive their stimulus payment. It seems that this scam is targeting senior adults in particular and is a mirror of email messages that are also being received requesting the same online test.
This text also includes a link for the recipient to click on to take the online test. Unfortunately, people who are unaware of the scam and read the text may click on the link so they can access their stimulus payment. When the victim fills out their information, they're really providing that information to scammers who can then use that information for nefarious purposes, including identity theft and financial damage.
As a reminder, the IRS will not contact you by email, text message, or social media channels to request personal information and they will not call you to demand payment through debit card, gift cards, or wire transfers. If you do want to check the status of your stimulus payment, it can be done via this this link.
What to Do
If you receive a text message like the two described above, do not respond or click on any embedded links. Report the text to local law enforcement agencies, place the number associated with the message on your phone’s “block number” list and delete the message. You can also warn your friends about the circulating scam to keep them from falling victim.
Stay vigilant and stay safe!