Protect your business from COVID-19 fraud

For many individuals and businesses, the hardships and uncertainties caused by COVID-19 have produced a positive reaction: people are coming together to help each other out. There are countless examples of people coming together to deliver food to the elderly, donate or sew masks to first responders, and support struggling businesses. However, criminals and fraudsters view COVID-19 as nothing more than another opportunity to cash in on the misfortune of others. Fraud patterns are being reported at an increasing rate against individuals and vulnerable businesses. Here are just a few COVID-19 scams to keep on your radar.

Phishing Emails and Text Messages

One of the most common fraudulent scams is a phishing scam, where criminals use email and text messages to “fish” for sensitive information like credit card numbers. These types of scams are extremely common, especially during a crisis when people are scared and looking for help. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) have issued warnings about fake donation sites and sites claiming to sell a cure for the virus. 

Once the criminals have collected your credit card number, they may make fraudulent charges or sell your information to others on the dark web. Be careful and use extreme caution when communicating online. If you receive an email or a text message from a suspicious person that seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Suspicious Refund Requests

Right now, thousands of businesses are hurting and are in desperate need of revenue. Although it may be tempting to accept cash in any form, it’s important for your business to be on high alert for suspicious activity from new clients. One common tactic by fraudsters is to purchase a high amount of gift cards, memberships, or packages using stolen credit cards. Next, they will request a refund using a different card from the original purchase, making that cash difficult to recover. 

This scheme not only impacts your revenue, it also hurts the owner of the stolen credit cards. Remember, your business has the right to insist that all returns are made to the original payment method, especially if you sense suspicious activity. 

Fake Government Agencies

Many individuals and businesses are eagerly awaiting relief from the federal government in the form of the recently passed Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act. In addition to a stimulus check for individuals, the CARES act also offers financial relief loans for small businesses. The Federal Trade Commission has received a high volume of reports about fake calls, emails, and text messages from people claiming to represent government agencies. Pretending to be from the Social Security Administration, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) and the IRS, the criminals may claim that you have been approved for relief payments. If you respond to their message, the criminal will try to obtain money or your personal information. Government agencies will never ask you to send cash, wire money, or pay with a gift card, and any entity that does so is a sure sign of a scam.

If you think you may be the victim of fraudulent activity, you can report it directly to the FTC. Forward fraudulent emails to spam@uce.gov and fraudulent text messages to SPAM (7726). Although your mind may be on other matters during this unprecedented time, it’s important to carefully monitor suspicious activity to protect your business.

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