A long-time scam tactic has made a comeback amid the coronavirus pandemic. COVID-19 catfishing scams are out in full force in an attempt to play on people’s emotions and steal their personally identifiable information to commit fraud.
Who Is It Targeting: Social media and dating app users
What Is It: A scam where someone creates a fake social media profile to target victims for financial donations or sensitive personal information used for identity theft.
What Are They After: Scammers are stealing photos of frontline workers to lure in victims to give money to a fake charity, or to steal their personal information to commit fraud. As reported by NBC, one student nurse had to report a fake Facebook page over 400 times as it was soliciting illegitimate coronavirus donations.
Despite an increase in awareness of similar scams, fake accounts are becoming more common. In the FBI’s 2019 Internet Crime Report, there were 1,000 more reports of confidence fraud and romance cybercrimes compared to 2018. Those statistics are an example of why so many people might be getting targeted by COVID-19 catfishing scams.
How Can You Avoid It:
- Research the person the profile claims to be
- If someone refuses to meet in person, it is probably a scam
- Never give money or personal information to someone who will not meet in person
- Consider making all social media profiles private and report any abuse to the appropriate platform
If someone believes they are a victim of a COVID-19 catfishing scam or find a picture of themselves on a fake profile, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.
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