Beware Covid-19 scams, says the Maine Emergency Management Agency (MEMA).
“Our elderly population is likely the most vulnerable population during this COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers and price gougers are devising numerous methods for defrauding people. As our most vulnerable remain home and perhaps isolated, they are likely seeing webpages and social media messaging popping up, hearing messages on the phone from people contacting them about fake treatments and cures, protective equipment and other available goods and services. However, scammers are aggressively creating fake addresses for their physical locations, fake social media accounts, and fake email addresses. Claims of available medical supplies or services are made and when monies are transacted the goods and services never arrive. Remember, any COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment, will be made through main stream media outlets.
- Scammers, pretending to be doctors or hospital staff, have even tried calling to report treatment for a friend or relative and demand payment for that treatment. In addition, scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
- Scammers are calling and sending messages via social media about fraudulent investment opportunities, e.g., products or services of publicly traded can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. If you decide to invest, carefully research the investment beforehand.
- Our most vulnerable should also be aware of such messages and emails from unknown sources, even if they claim to be from legitimate world or global health organizations. Many of these emails are designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information. You should check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses different only slightly from those belonging to legitimate entities. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
- Be very wary of downloading a “mobile APP” on a smart phone or other device claiming to track spread of COVID-19. Again these tricks are designed to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.
- If you are contacted by persons claiming to want to help with transportation to and from appointments, the bank or even grocery shopping, extra awareness and caution ought to be taken. It is best to independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19. There is information available from Maine Consumer Protection Division, reviews online of a company’s performance or quality of services, and your local police department may have information including complaints already made about this entity.
- In short, your best practices ought to include: (1) do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources; (2) make sure you have up to date anti-malware and anti-virus software on your electronic devices and they are operating properly; (3) be wary of any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail; and (4) do not send money through any of these channels or provide any personal information, including but not limited to your account(s) information.
Covid-19 Scams Info and Resources
If you believe you’ve been scammed, file a complaint with the Maine Attorney General at consumer.mediation@Maine.gov or FederalTradeCommission@FTC.gov, or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357); TTY: 1-866-653-4621. Law enforcement agencies around the world work together to stop scammers and provide consumers with the information they need to avoid fraud.
And you can visit www.onguardonline.gov to learn how to avoid internet fraud, secure your computer and protect your personal information.
If are need of immediate emergency services, dial 9-1-1 or contact your local Police/Fire/EMS directly for assistance.