We’ve seen it time and time again: Scammers preying on fear and panic. It’s an old and, sadly, often effective trick. When individuals are emotional, they’re more likely to go against their better judgment. Scammers thrive on people making decisions in a heightened emotional state. For example, they will claim a warrant is out for your arrest, or say someone is on their way to shut off your power, or pose as a grandchild in need of a wire transfer right now.
The tactic is even easier when people are already afraid.
My office has heard from Washingtonians who have received fraudulent email or text messages promising a cure for COVID-19, or products that can protect you from the virus, or cash to help you get through this crisis. I saw this firsthand when my wife got a text with a link to claim $1,000 “to help you through this crisis.”
If you get a text or email that claims to offer COVID-19 cures, cash, or protection if you click on a link, be wary. These messages are likely phishing attempts—a way scammers try to trick you into giving them your information. Some of these links install harmful software (malware) on your device.
The risks of clicking unknown links are serious and real. For example, a type of malware known as ransomware is designed to hold your device hostage until you pay the scammer a ransom. It can completely lock you out of your device.
The best way to fight back against these scams? Don’t let panic take over—get your information from reliable sources, and be skeptical of claims that seem too good to be true.
If you see anything that looks suspicious or fraudulent, file a complaint with my office.
It’s also important to be cautious before making a charitable donation. We often see fraudulent charities crop up in the wake of natural disasters or emergencies. In this unprecedented situation, many of us are searching for ways to help our communities. Unfortunately, we know that in times of crisis, scammers look for ways to prey on the good will of Washingtonians.
Don’t give in to high-pressure tactics. If anyone asking for a donation is pressing you for an instant commitment, be skeptical.
My office is on the lookout for individuals preying on our fear and our generosity during this crisis. If you see charitable solicitations that look suspicious or fraudulent, file a complaint with my office at atg.wa.gov.