Scams on the rise during coronavirus pandemic

Some are taking advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic to enrich themselves through fraud

Scammers have illegally acquired funds meant for the unemployed (Photo: Adobe Stock)

The coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best in some, from compassionate doctors, nurses and health professionals to those who feel moved to give to businesses impacted by mandate closures.

READ MORE: Stimulus checks sent to dead people must be returned, IRS says

But it’s also brought about a scammer’s paradise as government funds were released to the public at an unprecedented rate. From the Love and Hip Hop: Atlanta star who is alleged to have stolen $2M in the federal Paycheck Protection Program for a fraudulent trucking company to buy jewelry and a Rolls Royce, to those who are collecting unemployment benefits through identity theft, scams are on the rise.

Axios reports that there are other scams proliferating including one possibly run by a Nigerian scamming outfit called Scattered Canary who target unemployment benefits.


They say that the cybercriminal operation targeted either those who have yet to collect benefits or those who are not eligible for benefits and never requested them. According to Wired, they are using the non-filers designation to illegally siphon off benefits in the millions of dollars. The Secret Service issued an alert last week about ‘massive fraud,’ particularly in Washington state, Oklahoma, Washington, Rhode Island, North Carolina and Florida.”

“We can’t 100 percent confirm that the Scattered Canary actors we’re looking at are the actors the Secret Service is referring to, but at least one of these actors is committing unemployment fraud against the states of Washington and Massachusetts,” says Crane Hassold, the senior director of threat research for Agari, an email security firm. “They’re also involved in committing fraud against CARES payments.”

According to Axios, TransUnion, the consumer credit agency has reported that 29% of consumers have reported being targeted by scammers. Those targeted include the elderly, college students, and millennials.

There has been everything from vaguely threatening robocalls compelling you to return your stimulus check, to scam websites purporting to have PPE or hard to find items like hand sanitizers and wipes, that just take your money without sending the promised product, to fake Small Business Administration website. There are also links that ask college students to verify their financial aid info.

Experts advise being wary of any contacts you haven’t initiated or any calls asking for your specific personal information like Social Security or credit card info. Also, most government agencies like Social Security or the IRS will send official letters, not contact you on the phone.

Have you subscribed to theGrio’s new podcast “Dear Culture”? Download our newest episodes now!