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Beware of Coronavirus Scams

The District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) warns District residents to be on the alert for scams during the public health emergency. During times of heightened fear and stress, it is not unusual for people to let their guard down. This may be the case during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Scammers can take advantage of these unusual circumstances to steal your money and sensitive, personal information. Three common ways they do this are through email phishing, charitable contribution requests, and medical supply sales.

Email Phishing

A popular scam is known as phishing. Seemingly legitimate emails are sent to potential victims that appear to originate from someone’s employer, healthcare provider, or financial institution. The sender may ask the recipient to open a link provided in the email. In other cases, the email may provide a telephone number that the recipient is urged to call because of a problem encountered with their account. The scammer’s goal is to steal your personal information (e.g., date of birth, address, social security number, and bank and credit card account information) and your money.

Before responding to any emails or telephone calls requesting your sensitive personal information: STOP! Independently verify the telephone number of the company that appears to be requesting your information. Speak with a company representative at that telephone number (not the one provided in the email) to verify the email’s authenticity and contents. Do not click on any links in the email. Clicking on a link may load malware onto your computer, which could result in an account takeover along with a ransom demand to restore your system.

Charitable Contribution Requests

Be vigilant on social media for scams requesting charitable contributions to assist others who may be suffering as a result of the COVID-19 emergency. Fraudsters use this technique to take advantage of people’s desire to help others in need.

Medical Supply Sales

Another popular scam involves advertisements on social media and websites for the sale of medical supplies (e.g., surgical face masks, latex gloves, and protective eyewear), or for medications and/or supplements that purportedly cure or mitigate the effects of COVID-19. After the purchaser provides their credit, debit, or gift card information to the scammer, the goods are never delivered. Before sending money to someone offering to sell you goods or services, independently verify the seller’s business reputation by performing a Google search; or by checking with the Better Business Bureau at bbb.org, or the U.S. Food and Drug Administration at fda.gov.

If you believe you have been a victim of a financial scam or have questions about a solicitation or company, contact DISB’s Enforcement and Consumer Protection Division at (202) 727-8000.

For updates on Mayor Muriel Bowser’s declaration of a public health emergency due to COVID-19, go to coronavirus.dc.gov.

DISB Mission
Our mission is three-fold: (1) cultivate a regulatory environment that protects consumers and attracts and retains financial services firms to the District; (2) empower and educate residents on financial matters; and (3) provide financing for District small businesses.