Federal COVID-19 grant scam targets social media users

Reporter: Rich Kolko
Published: Updated:
Photo via Better Business Bureau.

Usually, when a friend suggests a way to get some extra cash, you listen up. Now there’s a scam going around Facebook and Instagram and other social media that involves your “Friends.”

How does it work?

Scammers are hacking accounts and sending out messages that look like they’re from one of your friends.

Then, they promise you COVID-19 grant money. And it’s happening here in Southwest Florida.

They claim all you have to do is hand over personal information and pay an upfront processing fee.

Both are red flags that it’s a scammer trying to steal your identity and your money. Don’t fall for it.

Here is a link to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker.

In a test, we set it up to show COVID-19 scams, and there were plenty right here in Southwest Florida.

And those are only the ones people have actually reported. Most scam victims don’t report it out of embarrassment or don’t want to bother.

To avoid this new COVID-19 federal grant scam:

  • Know that the federal government is not contacting seniors and offering them grants to stay at home and stop the spread of COVID-19.
  • Remember, requests for upfront payments of any kind, including through gift cards, money orders, wire transfers, bitcoin or insurance fees in exchange for a grant, loan or government benefit are red flags of a scam.
  • Be wary of any COVID-19 related offers received via Facebook, even if the offer appears to come from a familiar account. Hackers can hijack social media accounts and send the account holders’ friends or followers deceiving messages.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited messages. These links could contain malware or connect the target to a website set up to obtain personal or financial information for nefarious purposes.
  • Watch out for websites or messages containing typos, grammatical mistakes or awkward word choices. Many sham websites are created by foreign scam artists struggling with the English language. Typos and grammatical mistakes in messages purporting to be from the government are red flags that a message is from an imposter.

And remember, if it’s a real government grant, there is plenty of paperwork.

Identity theft is prominent, so never give personal info on the phone or email, don’t open email attachments, and don’t send payments via gift cards.


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