As if the overwhelming fear and uncertainty caused by coronavirus (COVID-19) isn’t enough, consumers also need to watch out for the inevitable surge in coronavirus robocalls. Typically, these scammers use a whole host of scam pitches to part victims from their money, but a recent FCC warning shows that scammers are adding coronavirus fears to their robocall deck.
The various coronavirus robocalls all prey on the fears of victims or exploit the most recent coronavirus news.
Staying on top of the most recent scams has always been a high priority for us here at Spam Fighter, and in this great time of uncertainty, we will make every effort to document the coronavirus scams we are alerted to and updating them here.
With that said, let’s cover a very important point:
The U.S. Government will never call a consumer seeking to verify personal information, bank account information, or declare martial law. Any call purporting to require/provide this information should always be regarded as a scam.
Lastest Coronavirus Robocall Scams
Coronavirus cures/testing kits scams
Considering that some areas have zero test kits available, or the kits that are available require hours of waiting, there’s no doubt that many people would leap at the chance of getting their hands on a test kit. If for no other reason than to calm their own anxiety that they may have the virus. In order to ‘provide’ a test kit to the unsuspecting victim, scammers will typically ask for health insurance information, personal information or banking information so the victim can ‘pay’ for the kit and have it tested.
Why this is a scam: To prevent the spread of fraudulent kits, the FDA issued a warning letter informing consumers that the only coronavirus test kits available are ones certified by the FDA, and any kits not meeting these criteria cannot be guaranteed to provide accurate results.
Another important note is that test samples are collected by trained medical professionals to ensure the sample is collected from the proper area and in a manner that will yield accurate results. Offers of tests that can be collected at home should be a warning that the offer is fraudulent.
Now, if the robocall advertises a coronavirus cure, feel free to hang up the phone right there. At the moment, there is no ‘cure’ for coronavirus and if one became available it would be widely reported on by all news media outlets.
Coronavirus Martial Law Robocalls
Recently the FCC has been receiving reports of robocalls announcing a nationwide quarantine or the institution of martial law. These calls have been increasing in occurrence to the point that the National Security Council made announcements declaring the warnings to be entirely fake.
Why this is a scam: In the event that martial law is declared it will be publicized from every media outlet available, and will not require any verification of information or action of the part of the consumer.
Coronavirus robocalls targeting high-risk individuals
COVID-19 is dangerous for anyone who contracts it but particularly dangerous for people with compromised immune systems or respiratory systems. It would be fair to say that sufferers of these conditions are well-aware of this fact and are at an increasingly anxious state over their health and safety. In other words, well-primed to be taken advantage of by clever scammers.
According to the FCC, consumers should be on guard against any call that advertises coronavirus help for high-risk populations, as these calls usually require the victim to ‘verify’ their at-risk status along with personal identifying information such as insurance information, date of birth, even social security numbers.
FCC transcript example:
“If you are diabetic and using insulin, we can qualify you to get a free diabetic monitor and a complimentary testing kit for coronavirus. To learn more, please press 1, otherwise please press 2.”
Why this is a scam: Much like the coronavirus test kit scam mentioned above, any offer of a test kit should be viewed with extreme skepticism.
Stimulus check robocall
As the COVID-19 pandemic unfolds, the White House recently announced a $2 trillion coronavirus stimulus package designed to help keep the struggling economy afloat. Part of that package includes ‘checks’ to individuals based on their eligibility and prior income.
It should come as no surprise that scammers will jump at this opportunity to gather the victim’s personal information.
The FCC is reporting that consumers are receiving robocalls declaring the presence of a “coronavirus stimulus bill” that will provide money to those who apply for it. Frequently, these scam calls also ask for the victim to verify their bank information to receive their deposit or to enter their banking information on where the check should be sent.
Why this is a scam: Straight from the FCC, the US government will never call a consumer and ask for verification of banking or personal information.
Coronavirus health insurance robocalls
Most people recognize that treatment for coronavirus will cost money, and that money is expected to come from your health insurance. But what about the roughly 28 million Americans who do not have health insurance or the millions of people who are losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic?
Don’t fall for robocalls that sound like this:
“This is Safe Health Central. To opt out of receiving calls. Please call our toll free listedn at the end of this message. The Corona virus is spreading your family safe and secure and speak to one of our health agents about getting you covered with the lowest cost health plan in the country now is the time to act. Don’t be late.”
Why this is a scam: COVID-19 spreads very easily and will likely infect many people. It would be a losing proposition for an insurance company to be seeking new customers at this point when the likelihood of the company having to pay enormous medical bills is very high.
Deliveries of hand sanitizer, masks or gloves to fight coronavirus
As COVID-19 exploded across the US, the CDC frequently informed consumers to wash their hands, sanitize surfaces and avoid the airborne droplets of the infected. Along with that guidance, the CDC notes that alcohol-based hand rubs should be the primary means of cleaning the hands and preventing the spread of coronavirus.
Naturally, these recommendations lead to a nationwide shortage of alcohol-based hand sanitizers, masks, and examination gloves.
As reported by the FCC, this robocall scam may sound like this:
“Dear customer: Due to coronavirus outbreak, we deliver a wide range of sanitizers, handwash, toilet papers, and face masks at your doorstep to safeguard you and your family from coronavirus. No need to visit stores. Get delivery in 24 hours.”
Why this is a scam: All of these items can normally be purchased in any local pharmacy, and are only unavailable because of increased demand. These legitimate retail stores have large distribution networks reaching back to the manufacturer of the actual items. So, if your local stores are all sold out of a particular item, offers of that item through a robocall should be viewed with extreme skepticism.
Offers of HVAC cleaning or preparation to fight coronavirus
Fueling the demand for N95 face masks is an understanding that coronavirus spreads partially through the airborne droplets an infected person may cough or sneeze out. With that in mind, it isn’t so far of a stretch to assume that an HVAC system may also remove these infected droplets from the air inside your home or business.
This assumption is right where the scammers step in.
From the FCC:
“Protect your loved ones from the coronavirus. For only $79 our highly trained technicians will do a full air duct cleaning and sanitation to make sure that the air you breathe is free of bacteria. So don’t hesitate, press 0 and have your duct system cleaned and sanitized now. Press 9 to be removed from this list. “
Why this is a scam: Unfortunately, according to the HVAC periodical Air Conditioning, Heating & Refrigeration News (ACHR) HVAC filters don’t truly remove all coronavirus droplets from the air. Diving in further, the CDC has determined that coronavirus spreads through large droplets which have a range of roughly six feet before gravity drags them down to the ground (this is also the source of the six-foot social distance guideline).
So for an HVAC system to properly capture these particles, the coughing person would need to cough within six feet of the filter intake. Coughing in the next room or down the hall will be too far from the filter system and those droplets will land on the floor.
Any cost spent on an HVAC cleaning, upgrade or ‘tune-up’ would be entirely wasted, so giving out your information or agreeing to a cleaning should be avoided at all costs.
World Health Organization seeking coronavirus information
According to the WHO, there have been reports of robocalls claiming to be the WHO seeking census information, symptom information from infected persons, login credentials, or to ask if the victim wants to make a donation to the response efforts. These are all scams.
Directly from the WHO: They will never contact any person seeking this information, or to ask for donations. Any individual claiming to be from the WHO should be viewed with extreme skepticism.
Spam Fighter Pro Tip: We are of the firm opinion that you should never agree to donate to any organization that calls you as there is no way to confirm the identity of the individual calling. If you are inclined to donate to an organization, seek out the necessary information on your own (websites, phone books, etc.) before arranging a donation.
Protect yourself from coronavirus robocall scams
This is not a time to become the victim of an identity theft scam or other nefarious means to part you from your hard-earned money. Many people are currently facing the prospect of lost jobs and great uncertainty, which makes them fast targets for scammers.
We try to make protecting yourself as easy and painless as possible by providing a simple app for download.
To protect you, Spam Fighter maintains a database of known scam numbers (so you don’t have to) and also identifies calls that are likely to be scams. More importantly, Spam Fighter can also let you know when an incoming call is likely to be part of the ‘neighbor spoofing’ type of spam, so you can better determine how to respond.
We know there are many unanswered questions right now, and it is easy to find yourself in the position of not being able to decide what is true and what is a scam.
We’re here for you.