SCAM Alert: Coronavirus fraudsters add to the anxiety and misery

  • March 16, 2020
  • Maria Montie, CPA, MST, CVA, MAFF

From the Association of Certified Fraud Examiners: Disaster fraud has become so common that many U.S. federal agencies were quick to create websites to address coronavirus-related scams, complete with tips and sharable graphics for users to link to on social media. Some of these scams include:

  • Email and text phishing scams disguised as messages from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). These messages have malicious links that download malware, which gives cybercriminals access to victims’ data.
  • Investment pump-and-dump scams where con artists promote penny stocks for companies that claim to have coronavirus treatment products. The stock price soars with the new trades, and then the con artist dumps their shares at a profit, which leaves the stock price to plummet.
  • Third-party seller and buyer scams on legitimate online retail websites like Amazon and Walmart. On the seller side, these scams can include products with fake return policies, fraudulent claims or sales of damaged, expired, counterfeit or unsafe products. On the buyer side, a common scam is the canceled payment. The scammer purchases your products and pays with an app but cancels the payment after the product is shipped and before the transaction clears.
  • Fundraising scams by fake charities solicit donations and purport to be involved in fighting the spread of the coronavirus.
  • Fake websites advertising fraudulent (often dangerous) treatment products or sites designed to infect victims’ computers with malware.
  • Illegal price gouging on safety or treatment products, which several state authorities have reported

Beware and as always, consult with your ShindelRock tax professional if you are unsure if a financial solicitation or IRS communication is legitimate.