FCC warns consumers to be aware of COVID-19 phone and text scams

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has released information regarding new phone and text scams that are targeting individuals in the United States amid the global COVID-19 pandemic.

On their website, the FCC details reports of scam and hoax text messages and robocalls “offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance, and preying on virus-related fears."

Additionally, the FCC notes that consumers may receive hoax text messages that indicate the government is enforcing a two-week quarantine or that it is necessary to stock up on supplies and food. The FCC said scam messages can even appear to have come from a “next door neighbor.”

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There are also reports of robocalls being used to target consumers. The World Health Organization (WHO) describes how scammers posing as WHO representatives have been calling individuals in attempts to steal money from them. The scam callers will often ask for a person's login information or request a donation to an emergency relief fund.

The FCC also said that the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have warned about phishing emails “used to promote bogus products,” and some scammers have been using robocalls to offer HVAC duct cleanings as a means of protection from the virus.

In regards to the proposed government checks to be sent to Americans, the FCC reminded consumers that they will not receive and texts or phone calls from the agency concerning the verification or release of those funds. Any calls/texts that consumers do receive related to the checks from individuals claiming to be government officials are not to be trusted.

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The agency also provided general tips for avoiding similar scams in the future, including not responding to calls/texts from unknown numbers, not sharing personal or financial info through email and practicing caution when you’re being pressured to share info or make any immediate payment. 

The FCC also reminded consumers that phone numbers can be spoofed. A call can appear to be coming from a friend or a loved one when it is actually a scammer. Government agencies will never ask for personal info or money, according to the FCC. Not clicking text message links and verifying if charities were legitimate before donating were actions also recommended by the agency.

This story was reported from Los Angeles.