When it comes to fraud, scams, and phishing attempts, we were sure that we’d seen it all. In the past, we’ve talked about EuroMillions-related lottery scams, Facebook-based lottery scams, and hundreds of other ways to defraud people. Little did we know that the Covid-19 pandemic will provide fraudsters with the perfect new opportunity to go crazy.
If you can’t make a connection between lotteries, Covid-19, and scams, you’re not alone. In the beginning, we missed the link as well. However, numerous news reports suggest that some ingenious people have been trying to make some cash by linking the three entities mentioned above. Here’s how.
Did You Get Vaccinated? You’re the Perfect Lotto Fraud Victim!
The problem with fraud attempts is that they get tired and become familiar with time. When this happens, fewer and fewer people start falling for the fraudster’s promise. This is when the scam scheme runs its course, and criminals have to develop something new.
Covid-19 vaccination and the newness of this topic provide ideal conditions for developing brand new online scams.
That’s right – scams. Plural form! There’s more than one Covid-19 lottery scam out there already.
Vaccinated individuals are ideal victims because they’re promised rewards for the health decision they’ve made. And in fact, there are legitimate lotteries in many parts of the world that allow only vaccinated people to participate. Scammers have tried to create something similar in the online space, minus the legitimacy and the reward that a participant may get from an actual legit lotto.
In the US, scammers have started posing as government and health authority officials asking people with Covid-19 vaccines to participate in exclusive lotteries. Usually, scammers send messages to these people in which the recipients are told that they’ve won the lottery. However, to claim the prize, they have to provide personal details like a social security number or a bank account.
As you can see, it’s the same old scheme. The only different thing is the specifics of the lottery that the person has supposedly won without entering into anything.
These latest phishing scams aim to give criminals access to details that will either enable identity theft or allow the fraudsters to drain funds out of a victim’s bank account. In some instances, both of these goals can be accomplished, depending on the requested personal details.
Scammers Get WHO Involved, As Well
Scams can only work if they have a sense of legitimacy.
This is why emails and messages are often being sent out by an “official entity” like a government or a specific organization (that usually doesn’t exist).
When it comes to Covid-19 and pandemics, is there any authority bigger than the World Health Organization (WHO)?
That’s right; scammers have been impersonating WHO officials, as well. That fraud scheme was uncovered at the beginning of August 2021. The Covid-19 Compensation Lottery is a non-existent one. Via emails, scammers are targeting thousands of recipients and letting them know that they’ve won one million dollars as compensation for losses and suffering caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.
And while this may seem ridiculous to you, there are so many people who’d fall for such an easy money promise.
The real WHO published the scam attempt on its website and warned people that a Covid-19 compensation lottery doesn’t exist.
The scammers claim to be a financial management firm in London, acting as an intermediary on behalf of WHO and the other organizers of the compensation lottery – the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.
As per usual, they’re asking for a payment that’s needed for lottery prize processing. In addition, the fraudsters are asking for a copy of a personal document and bank details.
WHO is asking people who receive messages about the Covid-19 compensation lottery to contact local authorities. When this happens, a criminal investigation will be launched to put an end to the scam possibly.
Watch Out and Trust Your Judgment
Determining if a lottery is a scam or legit depends on a bit of critical thinking.
As we’ve written in the past, you cannot win a prize from a lottery that you haven’t participated in. That’s not how things work in the real world. If you haven’t bought a ticket, the chances are that you’re being scammed. Also, official lotteries do not contact people to let them know about winnings. As a participant in the lottery, it is your responsibility to keep track of results and determine if you’ve gotten lucky. In that case, you have to approach lottery officials and request the payout.
Official lotteries will never ask for your bank account, credit card details, or other types of financial information. There are well-defined procedures for prize payouts. Do acquaint yourself with those to avoid phishing attempts. Once fraudsters have access to your financial details, they can drain all of your funds. Recovering the losses will be a difficult and very time-consuming process (if possible at all).
If scammers contact you via text, email, social media, or another digital channel, refrain from responding or sending out document copies.
Do a bit of research to determine which institution in your country deals with cybercrime. Get in touch with it as soon as possible. Keep records of all correspondence and provide those to the authorities. Every little detail that you can hand over will give a better opportunity to identify the fraudsters.