County warns residents of online COVID-19 and government relief check scams
(Plain Press, April 2020) Cuyahoga County Department of Consumer Affairs is warning residents to be extremely cautious handling texts, emails, and social media posts regarding COVID-19 and/or government relief checks.
Cuyahoga County residents have reported receiving scam texts that say: “… fill out this Census form so you can get you [sic] stimulus check. …If you don’t fill it out you will not receive a check in the mail.”
These texts are bogus. The coronavirus stimulus relief program is entirely separate from the Census. Federal law prohibits Census information from being used for other government programs, and details of the federal coronavirus stimulus relief program haven’t been worked out yet.
But worse, texts or posts like this may contain malware, which is a computer virus that can steal information and passwords from your phone or computer.
Law enforcement around the country are reporting an uptick in coronavirus-related email and social media scams, which coincide with large numbers of people working from home.
Some emails have been doctored to look like they come from the Centers for Disease Control or World Health Organization. “Even though some of these texts or posts may seem helpful, they are designed to harm us or our neighbors,” said Sheryl Harris, Director of Consumer Affairs for Cuyahoga County. “We all have to be vigilant before we click on a link or share information.”
Be extra cautious with emails or texts that: 1). Appear to be from a quarantined colleague or client requesting logging into a secure account or system. 2). Involve a higher-up, Human Resources rep or bank requesting emails with personal info about colleagues, including Social Security or banking info. 3). Ask you to help with an unexpected transfer of funds, particularly a transfer to foreign suppliers for the purchase of coronavirus medical equipment or supplies. 4). Request your passwords or Social Security numbers to sign up for coronavirus updates or information. 5). Promise you coronavirus-fighting tips or government money. 6). Urge you to “forward this to everyone you know” or tell you that the information was received from an insider or “a friend of a friend”
These sites can help you spot email and other coronavirus-related scams: The Federal Trade Commission COVID-19 scam-tracking site, ftc.gov/coronavirus; The Homeland Security at us-cert.gov or use one of the following links: tips for handling email attachments; Homeland Security tips for avoiding social engineering and phishing attacks.
Report scams: Report suspicious texts by forwarding them to SPAM (7726). Report suspicious emails to https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. Report suspicious social media posts to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov.
If you have questions about a scam, please contact Scam Squad at 216-443-SCAM (7226).