Pandemic Frauds, Scams, and Other Schemes

Over the past few months, FinCEN, the FTC and other regulatory agencies have been alerting financial institutions to various frauds, schemes and other illegal activity brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic. This article highlights some of the recent scams.

Impostor Scams. In impostor scams, criminals impersonate organizations such as government agencies, non-profit groups, universities, or charities to offer fraudulent services or otherwise defraud victims. While impostor scams can take multiple forms, the basic methodology involves an actor (1) contacting a target under the false pretense of representing an official organization, and (2) coercing or convincing the target to provide funds or valuable information, engage in behavior that causes the target’s computer to be infected with malware, or spread disinformation. These scams are used to defraud and deceive the vulnerable, including the elderly and unemployed, through the solicitation of payments (such as digital payments and virtual currency), donations, or personal information via email, robocalls, text messages, etc.

Red Flags to be alert to:

  • Contact from a person claiming to represent a government agency by phone, or electronic means for personal or bank account information to verify, process, or expedite EIPs, unemployment insurance, or other benefits.
  • Receipt of a document that appears to be a check or a prepaid debit card from the U.S. Treasury for less than anticipated EIP with instructions to contact a fraudulent agency to gain personal information.
  • Unsolicited communications from purported trusted sources or government programs related to COVID-19 requiring the viewer to click on a link to provide personal information or E-mails addresses that do not match the name of the sender.
  • Donation solicitations from organizations that are not associated or affiliated with reputable charities.
  • Charities that do not have a history, IRS returns or financial statements.

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