Fraud in times of the coronavirus pandemic: please remain vigilant
Be it with “fake shops”, as “fake police officers” or as “fake public health officials” – criminals are currently taking advantage of people’s fears during the pandemic. This article explains what tactics are being used by scammers and how best to protect yourself.
“Fake” public health officials calling at your door
Criminals are using the coronavirus pandemic as an opportunity to get access to private flats and houses under a variety of pretexts in order to steal valuables (such as money, watches, jewellery, car keys, etc.) lying around openly. They might, for instance, claim to work for the public health office and offer you a door-to-door coronavirus test without having announced a visit ahead of time. Such people should be scammers. Make sure to only use certified testing stations and pharmacies.
Even though most people’s intentions of supporting others are sincere, there are also “fake helpers” currently out and about. Make sure to always be vigilant and do not let people you do not know into your home. Scammers particularly target older people. They might, for instance, ask for money for medication or expensive treatments. Often a scammer might also claim to be a “handyman” and offer to check or disinfect your home.
To protect yourself against criminals calling at your door:
- Do not open your door to people you do not know.
- Do not leave valuables near your front door or in the hallway.
- Keep particularly valuable possessions, such as expensive watches, in a safe.
- Store valuables you do not use frequently in a safe deposit box.
Criminals tend to call older people at home and pretend to be relatives who have become infected with the virus. They might, for instance, demand financial support to pay a doctor’s bill or to buy medication. For anyone receiving such calls, the police urgently warn against handing over money or valuables to unknown persons. Another tactic is to offer coronavirus vaccines by well-known manufacturers over the phone. In this context, please note that vaccines are not sold on the open market.
To protect yourself against fraudulent phone calls:
- Always ask callers to themselves state the name of the relative they are claiming to be (e.g. grandchild).
- Do not let them trick you into giving names away.
- If you do not recognize a caller immediately, ask them about things/events that only your real relative could know.
- Do not disclose details of your family or financial circumstances.
- If you are called by someone claiming to sell vaccines, do not get engaged in any kind of conversation with them but hang up immediately.
- Contact the police on 110 immediately if you suspect fraud.
- In order to protect your elderly relatives, friends and acquaintances against fraud crimes, please pass on all relevant information.
Fake shops for health products and data theft via email
Please be careful when using digital services. For instance, do not order sanitary products or a facemask at online shops you do not already know. Do not open attachments to emails whose sender you do not know. According to the Federal Office for Information Security, a so-called “coronavirus map” is circulating, which is supposed to contain real-time information on where exactly coronavirus infections have been registered. This “coronavirus map” is being used by criminals as a bait. If the map is opened, a malware runs in the background that retrieves passwords and login information from your PC.
How to recognize fake online shops:
- The only payment methods offered are bank transfer and advance payment.
- The website does not use an encrypted https:// protocol.
- The information in the legal notice is insufficient.
To protect yourself against data theft via email:
- Do not open files, attachments or links sent by people you do not know. Remain sceptical even if you receive emails with attachments that seem to come from official bodies.
- If you are asked via email to download a software, only do so if the file in question is also available on the company’s website. Do not start any downloads using the direct link from the email.
- Do not respond to potential demands for money.
Forged COVID-19 documents
There is an increasing number of people who use incorrect information on COVID-19-related documents to get vaccinated early or have greater freedoms in their day-to-day lives. Since the last amendment of the Protection Against Infection Act, providing incorrect information on vaccination, recovery or testing records is punishable under criminal law. Any person who provides false information on documents such as a test result or a vaccination booklet and/or uses such incorrect documents is liable to prosecution. The use of incorrect documents is punishable with imprisonment for a term of up to one year or a fine.
To protect yourself against documents forged by criminals:
- Do not share pictures of your COVID-19 vaccination entry in your vaccination booklet on social media. Those are sensitive personal health data. Criminals can misuse the information from a photo, such as the batch number, the stamp of the practice or the doctor’s signature, to forge documents.
How to safely use the Corona-Warn-App
The Corona-Warn-App is available for download in German, English, Turkish, Bulgarian, Polish and Rumanian. Using the app is voluntary – widespread use in the population is recommended to make it easier to trace COVID-19 infections via the smartphone. The Corona-Warn-App helps to break chains of infection and to control the coronavirus pandemic. The Federal Government guarantees a high level of data protection. Scammers use fake coronavirus apps to try to spread malware. Protect yourself by downloading the Federal Government’s official Corona-Warn-App via the Google Play Store or the Apple App Store.
To safely use the Corona-Warn-App:
- Before installing an app, make sure that it is the official Corona-Warn-App by the Robert Koch Institute.
- Make sure the app has the correct icon.
- The official Corona-Warn-App is only available on the Google Play Store and the Apple Store.