Beware COVID-19 scam text making the rounds

Karen Manning
Posted at 11:22 AM, Feb 02, 2021
and last updated 2021-02-02 18:17:48-05

INDEPENDENCE, Mo. — Imagine receiving a text message with an offer for nearly $1,500 in COVID-19 relief funds.

It may be tempting to click on the link, but scammers are using tactics like that to steal personal information and money.

The 41 Action News Investigative Team learned about this latest scheme through a viewer who received a text.

Karen Manning, 83, is pretty savvy on her iPhone. She uses it to FaceTime, call and text with her kids and grandchildren.

However, her family members aren't the only ones contacting Manning.

Over the past couple months, she has noticed an uptick in spam texts and calls. Sometimes she answers.

"I said I was born in the morning but not this morning and hung up," Manning said of one recent scam call.

There was one text message last month that really stood out.

COVID text scam

"Karen, you have been accepted for our COVID relief program. You are now eligible to earn $1,472 per day," the message read.

It was a deal that was definitely too good to be true. Manning didn't click on the link.

"It makes me mad to think about somebody using that to get money out of people," she said.

The Federal Trade Commission tracks COVID-19-related fraud.

According to a data dashboard maintained by the agency, in the past year more than $30 million has been lost to pandemic-related phone call and text scams.

People ages 70 and older reported the highest median losses to the fraud. Victims ages 80 and older had a median loss of $800.

"I know there are a lot of elderly people out there that might need the money, and they would really jump on it," Manning said of her scam text.

Anyone who receives a similar text should take a minute to think it through before clicking on any link.

It's also a good idea to block the phone number and report any bad messages to your carrier. Copy the text and forward it to 7726, which spells "SPAM" on a keypad.

Robocall blockers are good options as well. Tech website Mashable compiled a list of the best ones for smart phones. One called "RoboKiller" actually has its own bots that answer the calls and waste scammers' time.

Finally, be sure to file a complaint with the FTC, which will make it easier for the agency to track bad actors.

Manning blocked all of the numbers that sent her spam texts. She wants to get the word out so other people don't fall victim.

"It just really upsets me. That's why if it helps just one person, it's all worth it," she said.