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With some businesses opening back up after temporarily closing due to the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are trying to capitalize using online job scams to steal people’s personal information.

Recently, Scripps Health found hackers exploiting job seekers through phishing emails with Scripps Health-themed “lures.” Scripps sent the following email to warn their community members:

Image provided to the Identity Theft Resource Center by public

ATA Engineering, another San Diego-based company, reports they also are seeing similar-type online job scams.

The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has seen a rise in victims contacting the organization about online job scams, including phishing emails. Some of the particular job scams reported to the ITRC include ones from Indeed, Zip Recruiter, and Facebook. The ITRC has had more than 40 victims reach out about online job scams the last three months.

Who Is It Targeting

People looking for work amist the COVID-19 pandemic

What Is It

Either a fake listing posted on a job board or a phishing email, robocall, social media message, or text message looking for a response.

What Are They After

While scammers attack in different ways, they are all looking for one thing: personal information. They hope they can trick people who are desperate or vulnerable into giving up sensitive data like usernames and passwords, financial data, or Social Security numbers. Once scammers have that information, they can commit many different forms of identity theft.

How You Can Avoid It

  • Never click on a link or open an attachment from an email you are not expecting. Instead, go directly to the source to verify the validity of the message.
  • Review all emails and websites carefully to make sure there are no suspicious addresses, subject lines or URLs.
  • Be careful about how much personal data you share, at least during the application process. Do not turn over information like your Social Security number until you are hired.
  • Make sure you have the job, and it is legitimate, before giving away financial information like a bank account number or routing number for direct depositing of paychecks.

If you think you may have fallen victim to an online job scam, you can call the ITRC toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat with an expert advisor on the company website.


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The coronavirus is making a lasting impact on the United States in many different ways. More than 175,000 people have died from the coronavirus, and 57+ million Americans have filed for unemployment. Another noticeable impact is the dramatic increase in scams and identity theft. There have been more than 92,000 COVID-19 fraud reports and $118+ million lost from fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission. A story published by the Washington Post reports that no event over the last decade has spawned as many schemes or lasted this long.

Since COVID-19 began seriously affecting the U.S. in March, fraudsters and scammers have been trying to take advantage of the situation to steal or misuse people’s personally identifiable information (PII) in any way possible to commit identity theft. Recently, scammers have been taking advantage of the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, using many different methods.

Medicare and Medicaid Scams

There is some good news when it comes to COVID-19 scams. COVID-related phishing scams appear to be on the decline. According to CheckPoint, July saw a 50 percent decrease in COVID-19 scams compared to June. However, CheckPoint reported that COVID-19 medical and vaccine-related scams are still in high demand as the race is on to find a vaccine. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of the Inspector General (HHS-OIG) echoes a similar message. The HHS-OIG says scammers are offering tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for PII, like Medicare and Medicaid information to commit financial identity theft.

The AMAC Foundation is so concerned about the current issue that they and Medicare.gov are sending a notice warning recipients of the scams. The HHS-OIG believes fraudsters are targeting recipients with telemarketing calls, text messages, social media messages and door-to-door visits in their effort to steal PII. PII can be used to bill Federal health care and commit financial identity theft fraudulently.

Insurance Scams

Insurance scams are another financial identity theft concern from COVID-19 with telemedicine being so widely available, as mentioned by the Coalition Against Insurance Fraud. The Coalition warns that costly insurance scams can exploit the burgeoning arms-length telemedicine. Tele-schemes can steal patients’ identities and defraud their insurance policies.

Medical Identity Theft Threat

While fraudsters are using the medical space to commit financial identity theft from COVID-19, there is also a risk of medical identity theft. According to a story published by CBS Dallas, hackers know more people are using the healthcare system, and they know they can take advantage of the situation.

If hackers get their hands on medical records, it could leave a lasting impact. The Senior Director of Threat Hunting and Intelligence at Binary Defense says someone who steals a victim’s identity can go as far as getting an expensive medical procedure done and charge it to the victim’s insurance account. The story suggests consumers give out the bare minimum amount of PII at medical appointments, ensure the provider’s online portals are secure, and ask providers to delete all of their medical records from the database once they are no longer a patient to help reduce their risk of falling victim to identity theft.

What You Can Do

Scammers are using Medicare and Medicaid scams, insurance scams, and a rise in people using the healthcare system to commit identity theft – particularly financial identity theft from COVID-19. However, there are still actions you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a COVID-19 scam or financial identity theft.

  • Medicare and Medicaid beneficiaries should be cautious of any unsolicited requests for Medicare or Medicaid numbers
  • Keep an eye out for unexpected calls or messages that ask for PII. If someone receives a message with a link or an attachment, do not click or open anything. (NOTE: A physician or trusted health care provider will approve any COVID-19 tests or treatments.)
  • Anyone suspicious of COVID-19 healthcare fraud should report it online to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General or call 800.HHS.TIPS

If you are the victim of financial identity theft from COVID-19, or a COVID-19 scam, you can call the Identity Theft Resource Center toll-free at 888.400.5530. You can also live-chat on our website to speak with an expert advisor.


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There are many unanswered questions about the coronavirus impacts in the United States, some of which center around how schools will reopen for the fall term. K-12 school districts in many areas are scheduled to resume classes in a matter of weeks. However, what the learning environment will look like has yet to be determined in many cases. With that said, there are a lot of concerns about how schools might implement distance learning on a large scale.

One concern that parents, teachers, administrators and technology leaders face is how to protect students’ personally identifiable information (PII) in an online environment. Child identity theft is a serious problem and educational institutions have been a target for hacking due to the vast amount of personal student data their servers store. A child’s identity credentials are seen as extremely valuable to identity thieves, primarily because of the long period of time where their use by the thieves can go undetected.

Parents are considering the option of continuing to keep their students distance learning, but internet safety tips for kids using online platforms will become even more important as more students (especially K-12) utilize digital education for a longer period of time. However, with so many different online platforms being used by schools of different sizes and needs, there could still be an increased risk of student data being exposed or stolen in a data compromise and then used to create synthetic identities or sold for marketing purposes.

In one example from 2019, an online education provider in the U.S. suffered an accidental overexposure when a database of possibly more than 19,000 students’ information was left unsecured. Anyone with an internet connection was able to see the data for more than a week before it was taken down and password protected. It is still not known if anyone accessed the information while it was exposed.

As the new school year takes shape, it will be vital that administrators and IT professionals put safeguards in place to prevent unauthorized access to student records, employee files and other sensitive materials. Understanding the laws that are already in place is important in helping schools avoid costly mistakes. In California, the state’s privacy and cybersecurity law (CCPA) requires businesses and organizations to safeguard consumer data against data breaches and accidental events. Companies are also required to obtain parents’ authorization when collecting data on any child under 13 years of age, as well as have permission from the parents and student if the child is between 13 and 16 years old. The U.S. government’s Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) also gives parents some control over what personal information companies can collect on their children under the age of 13.

The next step may be in limiting the type of information that schools gather, such as Social Security numbers or health insurance and Medicaid identification numbers. Another important child privacy step will be ensuring that all personnel who have access to stored data know how to secure it. As some educators switch to wearing multiple hats this fall, they must be well-trained on how to use the platforms their school systems have adopted.

For parents, there are many internet safety tips for kids they can teach their students when it comes to online security:

  • Parents should be mindful of what websites their kids visit and teach them about what types of information are okay to enter online
  • Parents are encouraged to help their kids be aware of the dangers of clicking links or downloading files, as these can contain viruses and malware
  • Parents should make sure all of their kids’ online interactions occur with a known and trusted individual to lessen the opportunity for social engineering
  • Parents can enact the strictest privacy control settings available on both their child’s computer, mobile devices and browsers they use

Anyone with questions about child identity theft, distance learning security or internet safety tips for kids can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Mystery Shopper Scams Surface During COVID-19

Mystery shopping has been around for a long time. Mystery shoppers help businesses, retailers and restaurants get information on the quality of their stores in exchange for money. In the past, scammers have found ways to turn the service into a mystery shopper scam, also known as a secret shopper scam. These scams are resurfacing during the coronavirus due to over 45 million people filing for unemployment and looking for some extra cash.

There are different forms of mystery shopper scams. One popular version of the scam is when scammers pose as retailers looking to lure people into being secret shoppers. They ask victims to pay for their products or training and then take off with their money. Fraudsters will also steal a victim’s personally identifiable information (PII) from the application they filled out and commit identity theft.

Another version of the mystery shopper scam includes fake checks. In this scam, the victim signs up to become a secret shopper through an online form – potentially giving away sensitive PII like Social Security numbers, date of birth and address. Then the victim is sent a check in the mail to use to secretly shop at a store. Once the check is posted to their bank account, the victim begins to shop as instructed. In some instances, the victim is told to buy reloadable cards and send pictures of them and their PIN card numbers from the back. Once the bank finds out the check is fake, the victim is on the hook for all of the money that they spent plus bank fees. This particular version of the scam lures victims in with a fake check, like the one pictured below that was sent to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) from a mystery shopper scam victim:

At first glance the check appears to be legitimate. However, while the check says it is to PNC bank, the routing number is for HSBC. Hanover Insurance Company also has a notice on their website about fraudulent checks.

The ITRC was also sent this letter that went along with the check:

While the letter also seems legitimate at first glance, the company listed is Assign Retailer Metrics Inc. instead of Hanover Insurance Company. The letter also asks people to take pictures of the card numbers and scratched PIN numbers and email them to a Gmail account instead of a company account. These are just a few signs that prove this is a secret shopper scam.

Mystery shoppers can be very effective for retailers because the secret shopper can buy whatever the retailer wants them to buy and then report back their experience. However, it can leave consumers looking for a way to make a little extra money in the difficult economy vulnerable to being taken advantage of by ne’er-do-wells. There are things people can do to reduce their risk of falling for a mystery shopper scam.

To avoid these types of scams, people should:

  • Never pay to be a mystery shopper – don’t wire money or  send a “deposit” via PayPal, Venmo, or Zelle
  • Do NOT give out PII on an application
  • Be wary if offered a lot of money for a simple task
  • Cash the check at an issuing bank or wait until the money has not just posted but cleared the other account; if the check is not good, the victim can return the cash into their account

There are also things people can do to spot a legitimate mystery shopping opportunity. People should:

  • Do their research on legitimate opportunities; search the internet for reviews and comments on mystery shopping jobs
  • Remember they are paid to be a mystery shopper (typically after the task is completed); they do not have to pay to do it

Anyone who believes they are a victim of a mystery shopper scam can live-chat with an ITRC expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530. Advisors will guide victims on the next steps they need to take.


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Free credit reports are now available to access every week to help minimize the long-term economic impacts of COVID-19. The continuing crisis surrounding the virus has affected people’s lives in many ways. However, fear of the economic impact is also at the top of many people’s minds. Across the U.S., more than 40 million people have filed for unemployment benefits since the first wave of the coronavirus closures and many business owners have had to shut their doors. Some employees wonder if their jobs will be waiting for them and business owners question whether they will be able to reopen once it is safe to do so.

Fortunately, there is some good news for consumers who are concerned about their financial security. The three major credit reporting agencies are offering free credit reports every week through April 2021.

While the economic impacts can be far-reaching, there are other harmful effects as well. Data breaches continue to happen. At least six states who have established public-facing websites for filing unemployment claims have exposed tens of thousands of users’ identity credentials online. There have already been reports of scammers targeting those seeking assistance with phishing attempts.

Consumers have been entitled to a free copy of their credit reports, up to one copy per year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies—TransUnion, Equifax and Experian. Those reports are readily available from AnnualCreditReport.com and are easy to download. However, requesting further reports after the initial free request (in a twelve-month period) could incur a fee. Now, consumers will be able to access each of their free credit reports every week through next spring with no additional cost.

For consumers, checking and understanding their credit report is vital in order to maintain some control over their financial health. It gives them a clearer picture of their current debt and spending potential, as well as help uncover whether or not malicious actors have been using their identities. Any fraudulent charges, purchases and lines of credit would appear on the credit report, making it helpful for monitoring one’s identity. To request a free credit report, users need to visit AnnualCreditReport.com and enter their information. The report will be available for download almost immediately. For more information on how to request a report and why it is a useful tool, click here. If there are any signs of suspicious activity on the report—such as purchases, new credit cards or too many inquiries from lenders—consumers can contact the Identity Theft Resource Center via live-chat or toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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State and local governments around the country are working hard on plans, and in some cases, starting to execute, to carefully reopen their communities and businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Data is being tracked; task forces are mobilizing and planning; and the “new normal” is beginning to take shape. However, this could lead to an increase in reopening job scams.

More jobs could be a welcomed sight for over 40 million U.S. workers who have had to file for unemployment benefits since mid-March. Some consumers expect to return to their old jobs. However, many others will be looking for a new one.

According to a survey issued by FlexJobs, 19 percent of respondents reported that they have already been victimized by an employment scam. The company further stated that for every legitimate work-from-home job—a highly sought-after option during the pandemic—there are between sixty and seventy scam offers. Out of concern for consumers, as they seek employment, the FBI is warning the public about reopening job scams or fake job offers that would ordinarily raise some red flags if not for the specific changes that quarantine has required.

The FBI says they have seen an uptick in fake job and hiring scams with cybercriminals posing as legitimate employers by spoofing company websites and posting fake job openings on popular online job boards. One of the scams involves fraudsters going as far as conducting false interviews with applicants, then requesting personal information or money that could be transferred to a private location. The Better Business Bureau told FOX 13 in Memphis that fraudsters are using the COVID-19 pandemic in their employment scams to make them more believable.

Fortunately, much of the same caution that applied to job-seeking before COVID-19 still applies. Consumers should know the source of the job listing and only use reputable websites to find employment opportunities. To avoid a reopening job scam, consumers should also be mindful of unsolicited emails and offers with outrageous claims—such as, “Earn $3,000 a week working from home.”

Once a job posting is found, consumers should also be careful about how much personal data they share, at least during the application period. If a company claims they want to do a phone, Skype or Zoom interview due to social distancing and safety, that’s okay. However, it does not mean candidates should turn over information like their Social Security numbers until they have been hired.

Finally, to avoid a job reopening scam, consumers should remember that legitimate jobs don’t usually require any upfront fees or costs. Even things like company uniforms or specialized equipment such as steel-toed shoes are often deducted from the first paycheck or purchased by the employee through an outside company. Typically, they are not charged in the form of a payment. If an employer asks for a finder’s fee, administrative fee, background check fee or any other funds, it is probably a reopening job scam. Even for legitimate actions like submitting a bank account number and routing number for direct depositing of paychecks, it’s important to be sure the company is legitimate and the job has already been awarded before submitting the information. If someone believes they are victim to a COVID-19 reopening job scam, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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Some consumers have yet to receive their stimulus check, leaving many wondering why. The Identity Theft Resource Center has seen a sharp increase in “stolen stimulus check” cases. However, not everyone who believes they had their stimulus check stolen finds that to be the case. In fact, there are a handful of reasons why people could still be waiting. With that said, some are legitimately stolen.

The FTC reports that some stolen stimulus checks appear to be from nursing home residents. Nursing homes in several states have made residents sign over their stimulus checks. Other cases involve people committing physical mail theft, like this New York man who stole over $12,000 worth of stimulus checks. Some thieves are going as far as stealing stimulus checks from postal trucks. The Chicago metro saw multiple postal trucks get broken into in April.

No matter how stimulus checks are being stolen, it can be a headache for consumers and something law enforcement is working to stop. If someone believes they are the victim of a stolen stimulus check, they should report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the IRS.

  • Victims of a stolen stimulus check can go to IDTheft.gov and click “Get Started”
  • On the next page, which is titled “Which statement best describes our situation,” victims should click the line that says “Someone filed a Federal tax return – or claimed an economic stimulus payment – using my information.”
  • After the victim answers the questions provided, the page will complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit for the victim to submit electronically to the IRS, which can also be downloaded for file keeping
  • The website will provide the victim with a recovery plan to follow that includes steps to prevent identity theft
  • The IRS and their “Get My Payment” tool is a way for consumers to learn the status of their payment, including where it was sent. For more information, consumers can visit the IRS’s Economic Impact Payment Information Center and Get My Payment Frequently Asked Questions pages for detailed, and frequently-updated, answers to questions. They also can find information here about payments that the IRS may have deposited to an account that is not recognized.

It is important for consumers to remember that the IRS will never call, email, text or reach out via social media to anyone about a stolen stimulus check or to receive a stimulus check. If someone does, it is probably a phishing scam looking to steal personal information and should be reported to the proper agency.

If someone had their stimulus check stolen, or had another form of government identity theft,  they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530. ITRC advisors will walk victims through the process and tell them where they need to go, who they need to talk to, what they need to say and what they need to do.


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Classes being moved to virtual and students being off of campus is not stopping scammers from targeting students. According to the Federal Trade Commission, a recent college student stimulus check scam claims to be from universities’ financial departments. However, it’s a trap to steal sensitive information and install malware on students’ devices.

Who is it targeting: College students

What it Is: Phishing scam that steals information, potentially installs malware

What Are They After: This recent email scam is disguised as a message from the victim’s university’s “financial department” regarding their COVID-19 economic stimulus check. The email claims it needs to be opened from a portal using a university login. If a student logs in with their university account, they could give away their login credentials and potentially download malware to their device.

How You Can Avoid It:

  • Investigate – If you are suspicious of an email, contact the sender directly to verify that they are legitimate. Look up their phone number or website yourself. Do not click on any links.
  • Pay attention to detail- Bad grammar and spelling can be a way to spot a phishing email. Another clue that the email is not from your school is if they use the wrong department name (calling themselves the Financial Department rather than the Financial Aid Department).

If a student thinks they may have been targeted by a stimulus check scam, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call for toll-free, no-cost assistance at 888.400.5530. For full details on the college student stimulus check scam, consumers can check out this article from the FTC.


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This post will be updated as more information becomes available

Contact tracing scams have begun to pick up steam with the evolving technology coming closer to becoming a reality. Some of those scams include hackers and fraudsters posing as contact tracers – both online and in person – trying to steal personally identifiable information (PII), personal health information (PHI) and other personal data.

The United States began the re-opening process after the COVID-19 pandemic closed many aspects of daily life. That is expected to include many precautions to keep people safe, including contact tracing – a method used to find the people who may have come into contact with someone infected with COVID-19. In fact, many people anticipate contact tracing will play a large part in keeping people informed of their risk of exposure until a vaccine is available.

Apple and Google are cooperating to ensure the different phone operating systems are compatible for contact tracing purposes. Apple and Google are also working with health departments across the country to figure out how to roll-out an effective contact tracing Bluetooth-based system that would allow public health departments to create their own contact tracing apps. Despite doubts from some health officials on how useful Apple and Google’s optional systems will be, the two tech companies have developed the digital contact tracing system, and have included it in their latest software updates. Contact tracing apps have already rolled out in other countries. According to MIT Technology Review, so far, there are 25 contact tracing efforts globally. However, none of those apps work in the U.S. Consumers should beware of any attempt to entice them or someone else to download and register for an app.

While app development efforts continue, scammers are tricking people into contact tracing scams using fake apps that steal their personal information. The Better Business Bureau of Connecticut warns people about text messages in their area that appear to be linked to COVID-19 contact tracing, alerting people that they were near someone who tested positive for coronavirus. Police in Washington state are alerting residents of contact tracing scams going around trying to steal sensitive information, including credit card information and Social Security numbers. The Champaign-Urbana Public Health District urges residents not to fall for contact tracing scams, adding that they will never alert people of a positive test via text.

In all of these scams, fraudsters are trying to steal people’s personal information, whether it is by trying to get them to click on unknown malicious links or simply asking for them to provide it. Hackers then have the ability to turn right around and sell the information, which could lead to identity theft. Even when legitimate apps are available, users should check to see if the data they share will be used for marketing purposes without their permission or sold for other purposes.

To avoid a contact tracing scam, people should stay informed on the latest contact tracing details, as well as the most up-to-date COVID-19 information from their state and local health departments. Local health departments will inform people of what a legitimate contact tracer will ask and any protocols they will follow. If anyone gets a text or notification they are not expecting that they were in contact with someone who tested positive for COVID-19, they should ignore it and call their local health department to confirm the validity of the message. They should not provide any information they are asked for, nor should they click any links, open any attachments or download any files.

If anyone believes they have fallen victim to a contact tracing scam or is a victim of identity theft, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor or call toll-free at 888.400.5530. An advisor can help victims create an action plan on the steps they need to take that are customized to their needs.


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From groceries and household goods to medicine and clothes, the coronavirus pandemic has forced people to do a fair bit of their shopping online. According to data from ACI Worldwide, in March 2020, online retail shopping saw a rise in sales as high 74 percent year over year. While online shopping is playing an important role in allowing people to stay home and safely shop during COVID-19, hackers are taking note as well. That could be part of the reason why retail and manufacturing companies are seeing the most attacks. It is also why it is so important for consumers to exercise online shopping safety to not expose their personally identifiable information (PII) unwittingly.

Online shopping has grown in popularity and ease of use over the years. The increase of its use due to COVID-19 could lead to a heightened risk of formjacking, when cybercriminals insert malicious code to an existing, reputable website and gain access to its sensitive user information. While shopping the site, the user data is sent to hackers even as the user’s cart is processing as it should with the retailer. According to CNBC, e-skimming attacks intended to steal people’s personal information while shopping online were already increasing before COVID-19. Online shopping amid the pandemic has also led to an increase in fake goods being sold online, like fake cures, vaccines and tests.

Fraudsters understand the consumers’ needs to buy essential and nonessential goods during COVID-19 and are taking advantage. Tenable Research identified an SMS spoofing flaw that could have allowed an attacker to send spoofed messages to any mobile number. While the flaw was patched, hackers could have exploited it with malicious links.

Despite some of the risks of shopping online, there are things consumers can do to practice online shopping safety. People should make sure all of their transactions are at legitimate business websites that they visit directly. If someone comes across any fake products, they should report it to the National IPR Center or the Consumer Product Safety Commission. Finally, when creating an account to shop online, consumers should exercise online shopping safety by using strong security questions and answers.

To reduce the likelihood of falling victim to a phishing attempt while trying to shop online, consumers should protect their computers and devices by using security software, multi-factor authentication and backing up their data. These tips could help reduce the likelihood of a consumer falling for a scam or victim of identity theft. If someone believes they are a victim of identity theft or has any questions regarding online shopping safety, they can live-chat with an Identity Theft Resource Center expert advisor. They can also call toll-free at 888.400.5530.


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