Beware, COVID Scams Are On The Rise

With COVID-19 Stay-at-Home orders in place in Summit and Wasatch Counties, increased screen times and the promised check from the federal government, it’s a time to be on the lookout for con artists.

Utah Department of Commerce Public Information Officer Brian Maxwell says scams are in abundance as the COVID-19 epidemic leaves people anxious and uncertain about the future. He says cybercriminals will use every opportunity to take advantage of a crisis by using the same old tricks but in a new way.

“It seems to be the usual suspects. What we find in crisis situations is that scammers never let a crisis go to waste. What’s happening now is people are sending text messages about, for example, coronavirus cures, or that the popular drug the president has mentioned a few times, Chloroquine, are coming. So, it’s the usual formats, phone, email, text messages”

The federal coronavirus stimulus package signed Friday will result in millions of Americans receiving a check of $1,000 or more in the coming weeks. Maxwell says there are scams that offer quicker ways for people to get their payments. Maxwell urges people to let nothing get between you and that check. He says the government has tax return filings with contact information and will use that information to disperse the payments.

In addition to scammers trying to get your check, Maxwell says you also need to be on alert for profiteers. During times of emergencies, he says it is against state law to raise prices more than 10% above the usual retail price. But last week the CPB had 400 reports of price gouging.

“Now, not all those complaints were about legitimate price gouging, some of those complaints were about social media posts where people were making ill-advised jokes and so our investigators have looked into all those complaints and continue to look into price gouging so that’s a major scam that’s going on right now.”Consumers can file price gauging complaints on the website

Maxwell says security scams are on the rise and anytime the words coronavirus or COVID cure are mentioned, he says be suspicious. He says don’t fall victim to investments that look too good to be true.

“Someone will say, oh you’ve lost a lot of money in the stock market and the way to recover that quickly since you’re so close to retirement, there is this company raising capital right now and they have the cure for the coronavirus. And so, if you invest money here this will be the biggest thing going in a few weeks when they have the cure. Anytime you have COVID-19 or coronavirus mentioned as part of an investment opportunity, be wary.”

Securities scams are usually presented as can’t miss opportunities and often the scams aren’t realized until months or years later.

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