5 Ways to Guard Against Coronavirus Robocalls

As the nation battles a health crisis and works to repair a struggling economy, Americans are faced with threats of another source. More than 58 billion robocalls were made in 2019, and scammers are using America’s fear of COVID-19 (coronavirus) to steal personal information and access financial accounts. Despite an anti-robocall bill being passed by Congress and signed by the president on Dec. 31, 2019, the calls continue to hit phones through the crisis.

Coronavirus Robocall Claims

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) say COVID-19 scams include one Philippines-originating robocall campaign touting a “non-existent ‘free test kit’ for COVID-19.” Another scam comes from Pakistan, according to the FCC, and is robocallers falsely promoting HVAC cleaning services that fight against COVID-19.

The FCC estimates the monetary value of the “wasted time and nuisance” caused by scam robocalls exceeds $3 billion each year. The fraudulent robocalls cost Americans actual damages of roughly $10 billion annually. As Americans look for ways to protect their families and businesses, the scammers hone in on the fear and urgency that stem from COVID-19.

Protect Against Robocall Scams

South Carolina residents receive some 1.21 billion robocalls each year. In order to protect yourself from these malicious callers:

  • Research the promoted company or product.
  • Don’t pay for anything over the phone.
  • Read company or product reviews before you make an online purchase.
  • Never wire money or pay through obscure methods, like requested gift cards.
  • Don’t let fear drive your decisions. Stay educated on current best practices to protect yourself from COVID-19.

Don’t allow potential scammers to steal your personal information by answering questions or giving information that “confirms” who you are.

Stimulus Check Scams

One of the major scams sweeping through inboxes and cell phones is the promise of a large COVID-19 stimulus check or the request of personal information to ensure you receive your check. With one in five Americans filing for unemployment benefits since March, many are anticipating the arrival of the stimulus check to cover necessary costs, like the mortgage note or car payment.

Scammers are aware of the financial struggle many face and are feeding on that concern. Before you respond to anyone who claims to be associated with the IRS or federal government, review these tips:

  1. Information from the IRS will come from irs.gov/coronavirus. Only submit your personal information to this site. 
  2. The IRS will not call, text, email or reach you through social media. Do not respond or offer any information via these telecommunication methods.
  3. You do not have to pay a fee to get your stimulus check.

Be aware of a fake check scam that could cost you hundreds if you act. Scam artists will fraudulently pose as an IRS employee and ask you to deposit a “stimulus” check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. These scams cost Americans billions of dollars each year. Do not share your personal information with anyone, even those promising a COVID-19 stimulus check.

Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.