- Robocall scammers are adding the coronavirus pandemic to signature scam pitches, like offering new information on how the pandemic affects student loan debts.
- Robocall blocking service YouMail says coronavirus-related scam calls are actually quite low so far, but the scammers are “just starting out,” YouMail CEO Alex Quilici told Business Insider.
- It’s worth being extra vigilant during unprecedented times when fears and concerns are high, like the environment we’re in today with the coronavirus pandemic. Criminals often use emergencies as a platform to tap into the fears and concerns.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
Scammers who use phone calls and robocalls to reach their victims are taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic to prey on fears and uncertainty, according to The Washington Post citing robocall blocking app, YouMail.
YouMail claims Americans are getting over one million robocalls on a daily basis, some of which pitch fake coronavirus testing services. One call offered an at-home testing kit for coronavirus – a service that currently doesn’t exist.
In the grand scheme of things, one million daily scam calls is still only a fraction of the total number of spam calls Americans get each year – in 2018, that number topped 48 billion, according to YouMail. “The problem so far appears smaller than we would have guessed right now – which is good news,” YouMail Chief Executive Alex Quilici told Business Insider, “roughly 1% of the calls out there right now on a daily basis are involving what looks like a coronavirus-related scam.”
However, Quilici believes that scammers are just starting out, and they’re trying different tactics to become successful. “We see a lot of things coming and going,” Quilici said. “Just like the virus itself, our bet is that you’ll see this explosively expand if/as they find things that work well.”
In some cases, scammers are adjusting their original pitches to make them relevant to the coronavirus pandemic. One example shows how a scammer is using a signature topic in phone scams – student loan debt – and adding the coronavirus pandemic to the mix. Below is a transcript of one scam call recorded by YouMail, edited by Business Insider for brevity and clarity:
“Hello this is Brett PJ sick(?) with an important message regarding the effects of the Corona virus outbreak on your student loans…new measures will include the interest on your federal student loans until further notice…For more information on how these new measures will impact your future payment obligations. Call us back today at [phone number].“
You can listen to this scam call, as well as others intercepted by YouMail, on the company’s directory.
As relevant as a phone call might be, even if it appears to provide relief or addresses a concern you have, it’s worth being extra vigilant and sceptical of anyone offering help over the phone, especially if you get an unexpected call from an unknown number.