Coronavirus Scams: Watch Out For These Efforts To Exploit The Pandemic

Forbes,com – Topline: With a global crisis comes a number of bad actors trying to take advantage, and the pandemic over the Covid-19 coronavirus is no different. Here’s a list (we will update as we can) of possible coronavirus scams: 

  • U.S. Rep. Katie Porter on Monday shared to Twitter a suspicious text message she received promising free iPhones due to the coronavirus, asking the for her to click a link.
  • As reported by Forbes, a supposed Lybia-based malware spread to Android phones via text promises to share data and stats about the coronavirus but instead watches you through your smartphone camera, listens using its microphone or parses through text messages.
  • There are also text messages going out promoting payday loans of $5,000, alerts for breaking news and links to a fake Fox News site promoting a coronavirus-curing CBD oil and offers to sign up and buy, though, it’s unclear if consumers would actually even receive the oil.
  • Controversial televangelist Kenneth Copeland, who has been criticized for his lavish lifestyle whilst soliciting donations for his Kenneth Copeland Ministries, claimed to have “healed” viewers of the coronavirus through television screens last week.
  • Last week, the FTC and FDA jointly called out seven companies for peddling products that purported to help or cure people afflicted with the coronavirus: The Jim Bakker Show, Herbal Amy, Inc., N-Ergetics, Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd, GuruNanda, LLC and Vivify Holistic Clinic.
  • Jim Bakker, who was convicted of fraud in the late ’80s, was additionally sued by his home state of Missouri over the claims that his product, “Silver Solution” could eliminate the virus in his elder customers’ immune systems.
  • Selling unapproved “Coronavirus Protocol” products like a Coronavirus Boneset Tea and Coronavirus Core Tincture, Herbal Amy owner Amy Weidner told Forbesthat she removed a quote from an ad following the warning because, “The FDA does not want me to quote anyone saying anything in the product description that would insinuate that it treats, mitigates or cures any diseases.”
  • Conspiracy theorist and InfoWars radio host Alex Jones was issued a cease-and-desist order from the New York State attorney general for claims that his products, including toothpaste, dietary supplements and creams, could be used to treat the coronavirus.
  • These companies aren’t alone in trying to sell false antidotes, as Amazon told Reuters and others that it removed over 1 million products claiming to treat the virus by the end of February, but as the FTC warns, “There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19)—online or in stores.”
  • While specific bad actors are being called out, there are millions of scammers more in the shadows that should be and can be avoided by following common sense browsing practices.
  • Jiri Kropac, a researcher at cybersecurity firm ESET, saw a spike of 2,500 infections from two malware strains spread by coronavirus-themed emails on Monday, according to a Forbes report, with another company, Proofpoint, saying the number of attacks so far have perhaps been the largest its ever seen set around a single theme.
  • As reported by Forbes, a slew of coronavirus-based domain names have been registered that could be used to infect users with malware—addresses like coronavirus-map[.]com, coronavirus[.]app and vaccine-coronavirus[.]com.
  • In particular, there have been a number of scams involving coronavirus maps that mimic the legitimate Johns Hopkins’ resource, with the program’s designer Esri commenting on the confusion saying “Whomever posted the malicious downloadable app is attempting to take advantage of the strong public interest concerning the coronavirus, but it requires the user to either download the app executable or it could be distributed by email for the user to then install onto their local Windows system.”
  • Additionally, users should be mindful of phishing emails that disguise themselves as coming from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization, with the latter noting that WHO emails are addressed “.int” and that “WHO does not send email from addresses ending in ‘@who[.]com’ ,‘@who[.]org’ or ‘@who-safety[.]org’.”

Big Number: $1 million. That’s how much UK citizens lost to scammers in February, according to the National Fraud Intelligence Bureau (via Reuters).

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