7 On Your Side: How to defeat the most deceptive coronavirus scams

COVID-19 News and Information
NEW YORK CITY (WABC) -- So many of us are getting inundated with political emails on social media and in our inboxes as we get close to the presidential election in November, but some of that material is actually coming from scammers.

We also have a warning about a dangerous new spam that uses the fear of exposure to COVID-19 to con you, as "contact tracing" is the latest buzzword that hackers are using to make you open your wallet.

"Scammers follow the news, and they're aware of contact tracing is starting to happen in various states," said Patrick Webre, chief of the FCC's Consumer and Government Affairs Bureau. "And they can use this to prey on us, get personal information, financial information, to use against us."

Webre is warning about phony calls, one of which starts by saying, "Dear citizen, this is the U.S. Department of Health, and this call is regarding coronavirus breakdown in your area."

The scammers' goal is to steal your money and identity, and they accomplish this by getting you to give them your bank account numbers, credit card number, or even your Social Security number.

Remember, no legit caller will ever ask you for those types of information.

"I guess the scary thing is that people are getting contacted for contact tracing from legitimate source," Webre said. "Because scammers can use Caller ID spoofing to spoof the legitimate number."

If you get a call you think is suspicious, simply hang up. Do not call the number back, research the health department number, and call them independently.

"Look that number up and independently verify that number," Webre said. "So you know you're talking to the right people."

People are also capitalizing on the political and social climate for scams.

Adam Levin's team at CyberScout shared a phony fundraising letter sent out to registered voters of the opposing party.

Beware of a political email from a candidate you don't support or an issue you don't agree with. Remember, it's endgame is to get you to click.

"Your first inclination is delete it," Levin said. "But if it shows up again, your second inclination is hit the 'unsubscribe' button. Once you hit 'unsubscribe,' you may have installed ransomware or malware on your computer."

Levin says outsmart the hackers, and instead of hitting unsubscribe, block the sender or mark them as spam so emails go directly into your trash folder.

And don't forget to delete spam emails.

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