Agency warns consumers of COVID-19 scams on Facebook, WhatsApp

*Money offers made on these platforms using big-name brands are likely phishing scams ─Federal Trade Commission

Isola Moses | ConsumerConnect

As the United States (US) Congress is still deadlocked over the provision of supplementary aid amid the disruptive COVID-19 pandemic, several consumers are reportedly struggling to stay financially afloat now.

However, because of the widespread desperation that has resulted from this crisis, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) says it is even more important to be aware of scammers who are looking to take advantage of the situation on the social media.

ConsumerConnect learnt FTC Investigator Diana Shiller, in a recent blog post, said that one of the latest schemes to look out for involves supposed money offers that are being made by companies on platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp.

Consumers are reporting seeing messages from many well-known companies that offer money to those who may be in need, Shiller said.

She stated that “people have reported seeing messages that seem to be from Pepsi, Walmart, Target, and other big-name brands.

Report says these messages all offer money to people who need it, including through grants, coupons for food support, or other giveaways.

Nonetheless, she warns that they’re all fake, and not from those companies at all,” Shiller warned.

According to her, what scammers are actually doing with these offers is running a phishing scam that’s intended to collect personal information from consumers.

The FTC chief stressed although the thought of receiving help from a benevolent company might be nice ordinarily, the fact of the matter is that there is no actual assistance being offered.

In fact, receiving the message through a friend isn’t even a guarantee that you’re not being played.

Shiller declared: “There’s no money to get, and no help to be had. Just scammers. It could have been a real (and hopeful) friend who forwarded that message to you  ─but it could have been a scammer who hacked your friend’s account.”

And if you have any doubts, the agency says to simply delete the messages and directly contact the person who messaged you in the first place to see if they actually sent you the information.

Given the damage these scam offers could inflict, it’s better to be safe than sorry, she said.

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