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How to avoid Coronavirus/COVID-19 Scams

Some fraudsters are trying to exploit the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity for financial crime by posing as trusted organizations like banks and even the World Health Organization. 

They may pretend to offer a safe haven for your money or medical guidance. They’ll then try to trick you into making a payment into a safe account, giving personal or financial information.

Typically, they’ll get in touch through: 

  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Texts
  • Social media posts 

Remember, HSBC will never ask you for any PINs or passwords, or to move money to a safe account.

What type of fraud are people experiencing?

 

US Treasury Economic Impact Payment (Stimulus) Scams

 

The Internal Revenue Service has a dedicated Coronavirus Tax Relief and Economic Impact Payments page that will answer many of your questions regarding how the stimulus payments will occur. They have also issued a warning regarding coronavirus-related scams. Many of these scams are attempting to gain your personal or financial account information.

 

Never share your personal or account information based on emails, text or social media.

 

Listed below are some of the common scams where criminals are contacting customers either by phone, email, text or social media and using the lure of the US Treasury Stimulus payments as a way to gain your attention and trust.

  • Identifying themselves as government agencies who need your personal information and/or your login username and password. They claim that if you provide this data it will guarantee your stimulus payment. 
  • Identifying themselves as agencies who can provide assistance in obtaining a stimulus payment. They may offer you a low fee for this service or even offer to advance you the funds and then provide you a fake payment. 
  • Criminals are even mailing fake stimulus checks with instructions to contact a phone number or website to activate the fake check. When you contact them they will ask for your personal information and/or your login username and password. In some cases, they will ask for your account number to cover an activation fee. They may even have you send them the fee after you negotiate the fake check. 

Phishing 

Customers say they’re receiving scam emails about insurance and other COVID-19 topics in an effort to gain personal information including login usernames and passwords. Always exercise extreme caution when discussing your information and don’t share your information when people contact you. 

Payment fraud 

Criminals will try to get you to send them payments, for a variety of reasons. We’ve recently seen payment scams with payment references mentioning coronavirus or COVID-19. However, that doesn't necessarily mean the fake caller used the virus as a conversation starter. They may have used these words in the payment reference to make it look more genuine to us. Be cautious when sending money and talk to a trusted advisor before making payments to new organizations or recently made friends. 

Payment diversion 

Some business customers are being targeted too. They're being invited to purchase “COVID-19 Insurance or Financial Assistance” as part of a scam. We have also seen some businesses being contacted by criminals impersonating their normal vendors and asking them to send money to a different account because their account is frozen by a foreign government or a variety of different excuses. In some cases, accounts payable teams have received fake messages from their own management directing them to create payments. Always validate any new or payment change information through a known and trusted contact number you have had on file for a period of time. 

Additional identified business targeted scams are located on the Federal Trade Commission communication.

There are examples of fraudulent sellers purporting to offer face masks and hand sanitizer for sale online and on social media. Be very cautious of businesses you haven’t purchased from in the past. Many criminals are starting pop up business to “sell” needed items. 

School closures 

Some parents have received fake emails telling them their child is entitled to free school meals. Parents are then asked to send their bank details so they can get help with funding while schools are closed. Please remember, schools will never ask for your bank details via email.

Digital banking at home

We know many of you are currently practicing social distancing. We recommend you use online and mobile banking. This means even if you’re self-isolating you can log on to: 

  • Manage your account
  • Make payments and transfers
  • Check your balance and more

By using online and mobile banking, you can help to keep our branch and phone banking services be available for the most vulnerable. If you're new to digital banking, rest assured your money and personal data is secure.

Beware of scams

The coronavirus has caused an increased amount of fraud scams targeting customers and their personal information as well as their funds. As with any major global issue criminals will prey upon the public’s concerns and anxiety. To protect yourself you can find additional information on our Protection from Fraud & Identity Theft page. 

HSBC will never contact you to request that you provide or verify your:

  • Full social security or account numbers
  • One-time password, account username or password
  • Answers to security questions over the phone 

Additionally, we recommend extreme caution when doing the following:

  • Buying hard to find items from previously unknown or recently established businesses
  • Making payments from your account to individuals or businesses with whom you don’t have a long term relationship
  • Making changes to account numbers you use to pay expenses based on communication that hasn’t been verified through an established contact method 

Never share your personal or financial information when you are contacted by an unverified third party. If you suspect wrongdoing, you can forward any phishing emails to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.

What next? 

If you think you've been the victim of a coronavirus scam impacting your identity or your HSBC account, report it to us. You should also report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or emailing the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

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