COVID-19 Scams Evolve with Pandemic

COVID-19 Scams Evolve with Pandemic

September 14th, 2020 - Telecom, Identity and Protection

By Jim Tyrrell, Senior Director of Product Marketing, TNS

The pandemic has become an important tool for scammers that they are using to their advantage. Since they first started surfacing in March 2020, TNS has seen new scams pop up and old scams mutate to fit the evolving COVID-19 narrative. Here are some insights into the latest tactics bad actors are deploying.

Health Insurance and Hospitals

Health insurance scams are a tale as old as time in the robocall world. Scammers have added a new twist to get people on the phone which involves spoofing hospitals. The FCC defines spoofing as when a caller “deliberately falsifies the information transmitted to your caller ID display to disguise their identity”. Many have reported panicking because they think they are getting an emergency call, only to receive a telemarketing pitch for fake health insurance. Some scammers are also claiming to be gathering COVID-19 information for local hospitals. In all cases, these bad actors are after your personal information.

Scammers always target seniors, who are even more vulnerable now. You can protect your parents and senior family members by sharing COVID scam information with them and ask about any unusual calls they may have received. The more educated they are the less likely they are to become victims of manipulative scammers.

Department of Health

Many states are starting contact tracing to combat outbreaks. These efforts employ phone calls to those who may have come into contact with someone who had or has COVID-19. Scammers have used this initiative to obtain personal information by claiming to be the state’s health department or spoofing the health department lines. Reporting any contact tracing calls will help identify which calls are legitimate and which calls are not.

Financial Scams

Student loan forgiveness is a common scam that was prevalent prior to the pandemic, but now fraudsters are using it more aggressively. As COVID-19 has left college graduates in distress bad actors are using any opportunity to prey on the vulnerable.

In all of these scams, it’s important to remember the most important fact that banks or governments will not call out of the blue and offer student loan relief or other types of monetary services. Student loan debt relief companies or law firms cannot negotiate with Sallie Mae for a “special deal.” If you’re having difficulty repaying your Sallie Mae loan, call 800-472-5543 (800-4-SALLIE), where official advisors can work with you to help you get back on track.

TNS has also uncovered scammers posing as the Small Business Association (SBA) and offering loans to business owners. Many small businesses are struggling through the pandemic and need help. As with other parties, the hardship caused by the pandemic creates an anxiety that these bad actors are looking to exploit.

Work from home scams have also increased, where a scammer offers a job that can “make thousands from home!”. These are bogus and often involve the victim paying money to the phony business owner.

Stimulus Checks

If you receive a call mentioning the stimulus check, hang up as it very likely a scam. Like banks, the IRS does NOT make calls to confirm your banking information. They will not charge you a fee to deposit a stimulus payment into your account and they will not email you. They will also not send you a check, then ask you to call a number and verify information to deposit the check. These are all tactics scammers have been using to trick people into giving bank account information. If you receive contact from someone claiming to be the IRS, be very suspicious.

How to Avoid Scam Calls During COVID-19

TNS is working hard to ensure that the phone numbers belonging to entities sending coronavirus related alerts are reaching those who are depending on them. These entities include:

  • Hospitals
  • Healthcare providers
  • State and local health officials
  • Other government officials

Everyone should be wary of calls or texts coming from unknown numbers claiming to be one of the entities listed above. You can confirm if a hospital or government call is legitimate by simply going to their website and seeing if the telephone number matches

In addition, consumers can protect themselves by leveraging telecom provider robocall detection solutions powered by TNS Call Guardian.  In these trying times, vigilance is even more important than before; be smart and stay safe!

Jim Tyrrell is Senior Director of Product Marketing at TNS with specific responsibility for TNS’ Wholesale Telecoms solutions. His focus is to drive the advancement of TNS’ go-to-market initiatives, refine the communication of its value proposition, generate thought leadership opportunities and ensure all activities support the company vision.

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