Better Business Bureau reports on latest Covid-19 scams

By Dick Eppstein - Better Business Bureau

“Grandma: I’m in the hospital, sick, I have the coronavirus! Please wire money right away.”

“Grandpa: I’m stuck overseas, all the airlines are shut down. Please send money.”

We all know about the “Grandma Scams”, where scammers call seniors and pretend to be their grandchildren needing money. But the scammers are now updating their approach to take advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic.

What seniors don’t realize is that these criminals are very clever. They can go on Facebook and research the grandchild’s family, so they know the names of brothers and sisters, pets and recent family events. When they call the grandparent, they use this information, and fear of the COVID-19 disease, to convince them to send money, often thousands of dollars.

BBB has done multiple warnings to seniors about the Grandma Scam. We give them these tips if someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a grandchild, other family member or friend desperate for money:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately – no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the caller’s identity. Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t send cash, gift cards or money transfers – once the scammer gets the money, it’s gone.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s office has contacted two related businesses demanding they stop marketing and selling fake at-home COVID-19 test kits to Michigan consumers.

VitaStik Inc. and $tronghold Inc. – both registered in Las Vegas, Nevada, but operating in Beverly Hills, California – after a concerned Michigan consumer reported the businesses’ website was promoting at-home COVID-19 test kits. The kits were marketed at $25 each and described as being 96.3 percent accurate, with results available in 15 minutes.

No such kits have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration, and the FTC has warned that all such ads for home test kits are scams!

A special agent from the Michigan Attorney General’s office contacted the business owner who said the test kits were going through approval processes with the FDA. When following up on those claims, the agent found them to be false as no one at the FDA had knowledge of the business owner or the kits.

NEXT: Phony SBA Grant Offers. The new government CHOICE Program offers small businesses thousands of dollars to keep their companies running throughout the current pandemic. But owners of these companies are getting hit with a lot of information on how to survive the COVID-19 crisis. With all of these messages flooding their inbox, social media, and phone, it’s easy to mistake a scam for a real offer. The Scam: An email, text or caller ID appears to be from the U.S. Small Business Administration or an attorney representing the SBA. It says “The SBA is offering grants just for small businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak”. The message includes an official-looking application which involves completing a short form requesting banking and business information. After being approved, the business owner is asked to pay a “processing fee” up to a couple thousand dollars.

In fact, the actual Paycheck Protection Program, run by the SBA through local banks, has NO application fee. And nobody calls small businesses to offer the program; each company applies itself.

A NEW TWIST! BBB has received several recent reports about a sophisticated new twist. After the “government agency” contacts business owners about the grant, a friend then reaches out through Facebook. This “friend” claims to have successfully received money from the exact same grant and wants you know about the program. What a coincidence! Naturally, the “friend” is not really a friend, but a compromised Facebook account contacting all of your friends on Facebook. (continued)

No matter how convincing the idea sounds and how much your business could use “free” money, don’t fall for it. If you receive an offer that appears to come from the SBA or another state or local government small business agency, research it before sharing any personal information.

Automatic Septic and Well Corp in Holland got this message asking for donations to help coronavirus victims in New York City. This is the exact message:

From: GlobalGiving

Subject: Coronavirus Relief Fund ( Please Don’t Ignore )

Hello. Due to the high number of the corona virus victim in New York, we are soliciting for donation from you to help get suitable environment and food items

Your participation in these on going practice will be highly appreciated

Due to high number of fraud, the management came up with BITCOIN Payment.

Here is our bitcoin address for donations : 1DCfRbPDDbxE4v9eYPFqJ4BVud2ZfPuKXW

Note: It’s easy donating with this steps. If you don’t have a bitcoin account, donate with the site exchanger (address), or Google for another exchanger.



Now, there is a legitimate charity called Global Giving, but this isn’t it. BBB investigator, Nancy Hendricks said that the real charity is in Washington, D.C., and does not ask for donations in Bitcoin. Just reading the broken English of this email request indicates it is probably from a foreign country trying to extract Bitcoins from careless donors. Remember to check with BBB’s Nancy Hendricks for any charity appeals from unfamiliar organizations.

By Dick Eppstein

Better Business Bureau