BBB warns of pandemic scams

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Submitted by Better Business Bureau/Central Indiana

The coronavirus outbreak has been big business for scammers. First, it was fake masks, then fake government grants, and now it’s a fake COVID-19 tests. In the past few days, BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) has gotten numerous reports of phony text messages claiming to be from a government agency.

How the Scam Works

An individual gets a text message that looks like it comes from the U.S. federal government. Reports reveal scammers are impersonating the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services, but they are unlikely to stop there. The message tells you that you must take a “mandatory online COVID-19 test” and has a link to a website. But there is no online test for coronavirus.

These are far from the only coronavirus text message scams (often known as “smishing” for SMS phishing). BBB also has gotten reports of texts urging recipients to complete “the census” or fill out an online application in order to receive their stimulus check.

No matter what the message says, don’t click. These texts are phishing for personal information. They also can download malware to your device, which opens you up to risk for identity theft.

Tips to spot a COVID-19 text message scam

 Government agencies do not typically communicate through text messages. Ignore instructions to text “STOP” or “NO” to prevent future texts. This is a common ploy by scammers to confirm they have a real, active phone number. If you think your text message is real, be sure it’s directing to a web address like “agency.gov” or “agency.ca,” not “agency.otherwebsite.com.” and check for look-alikes. Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Find contact information on your own and call them to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.

For more consumer tips regarding COVID-19, visit BBB.org/Coronavirus.

For more business tips, visit BBB.org/Covid.

If you’ve spotted a scam, you lost money or not, report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.


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