Robocalls have been targeting the vulnerable and unsuspecting for years, so it's no surprise that the scumbags would take advantage of the current global catastrophe to enhance their scams. The FCC warns that it has received numerous reports of coronavirus-related robocall cons in the wild — here's what to look for.
While previous robocall scams threatened IRS penalties or promised free vacations, the new ones are using both pandemic-related and personal information to make what could for some be a pretty convincing pitch. Here are a few common scams the FCC has been alerted to:
- Warnings of national quarantine or martial law — these could be trying to get you to order something or just part of a coordinated disinformation campaign
- Messages purporting to be from the WHO or charities asking for money
- Offers of free virus test kits — some of these are targeting individuals with diabetes specifically, offering a free blood sugar monitor as well
- Offering HVAC cleaning or upgrades to protect against the virus
- Promotions of various bogus products and treatments for the virus
- Asking for information to confirm a check from the government — the process for this if it happens will not be a random text message
The FCC post has some examples, including audio, of some of these scams, in case you're wondering what it might sound like to receive a malicious HVAC solicitation.
As a general robocall rule, unknown numbers — especially from your home area code — are a red flag. Let them go to message and you can always listen later. If it's a local business saying your order's ready or a hospital reminding you of your appointment, they'll say so.
Anyone asking for personal or payment info over phone, text or email is almost certainly a scammer. There is almost never any need to share this information insecurely.
Links in text messages from unknown or suspicious numbers are never to be touched. They may lead to being hacked or tracked via means hosted on the web.
Stay safe out there, and let's hope the upcoming regulatory framework aimed at combating robocalls does the trick.