In a time of crisis, certain scammers will prey on the most vulnerable. With the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) becoming a global pandemic, it’s a prime season to manipulate people’s fears for a buck.
One such instance seems to be occurring in Bowie, Maryland where a man was reportedly showing up to people’s homes claiming he was giving coronavirus tests. According to WTOP News, police officers said the guy visited at least two homes on Tuesday. He was described to be in his late 20s to early 30s, wearing an orange vest over a black hoodie and a blue surgical mask on his face.
Right before 12:10 p.m., authorities say he knocked on the door of a home and said he was inspecting for COVID-19. The person who answered the door didn’t welcome the man inside.
Police said he showed up to a different home around 1:20 p.m. and entered through an unlocked door. A resident confronted the guy and the two began talking. However, the intruder fled the scene when he heard a dog bark. No car has been linked to the incident thus far.
Bowie cops said that if a stranger comes to your home, claiming to be checking for COVID-19 or offering to clean your house, don’t let them in.
According to Forbes, people should also watch out for links texted to Android phones promising an app to track the coronavirus. Downloading such an application will allow people to watch you through your smartphone camera, listen to you through the microphone and pilfer all your text messages. Underneath the disguise of a coronavirus tracker is actually a customized version of SpyMax, a commercial spyware that can be acquired online by anyone with the Internet for free.
Consumers should also be wary of companies claiming to sell coronavirus cures or treatment. For example, according to Forbes, “the FTC and FDA jointly called out seven companies for peddling products that purported to help or cure people afflicted with the coronavirus: The Jim Bakker Show, Herbal Amy, Inc., N-Ergetics, Vital Silver, Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd, GuruNanda, LLC and Vivify Holistic Clinic.”
The Federal Trade Commission posted more resources and warnings on their site that can help people avoid coronavirus scams.
Even prominent public figures asking for money should be researched and vetted before donating money. Recently, activist Shaun King deemed himself the “leader” of a coronavirus help squad known as the C19 Health Squad. Their Twitter page reads, “We’re building a team to help people, families, & businesses in need. Follow @C19HelpSquad & commit to helping at least one person in need. More info to come.”
Social media was immediately wary of the initiative, considering King has faced various accusations of misappropriating funds, at worst and not being transparent about his organizations, at best.
“DON’T GIVE YOUR MONEY TO THIS,” journalist Ernest Owens wrote on Twitter. “You are better supporting better groups. Google Shaun King and his fundraising history for causes.”
Do your research and take heed to what medical professionals like the Center For Disease Control (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) are saying, as well as warnings from the Federal Trade Commission.