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6 Red Flags in Scam Email Promising Money for COVID-19 Victims

Tell-tale signs the $800,000 offer from the United Nations is too good to be true

United Nations building

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En español | The email below offers $800,000 to COVID-19 patients. That's one of many red flags suggesting it's a scam — which is precisely what it is, says United Nations spokesman Stéphane Dujarric.

Sadly, he says, scammers are “operating throughout the world in various languages usurping the U.N. name” and their creativity “knows no bounds."

A good rule of thumb: If an offer sounds too good to be true, it is probably not true. Think about it: The two stimulus payments approved by Congress during the pandemic were capped at $1,200 and $600, nowhere near the windfall dangled here.

The email purports to be from United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres, who leads the U.N. But can you spot the telltale signs of trickery in it?

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  1. A U.N. official would not send official correspondence from a Gmail account.
  2. Not the address of UN headquarters, though it is the address appearing on Wikipedia.
  3. No comma needed after a ZIP code; one of several mistakes in grammar and punctuation.
  4. Not Guterres’ phone number.
  5. See above #3. More grammar and punctuation errors in the email are highlighted in yellow.
  6. This is a bid for personally identifiable information. If you answered, reply requests for more sensitive data could follow.

To some people, the intent, tone and grammatical errors throughout this message point to this being a scam, the reality is “people fall victim to attacks like this every day,” says Michael Stamas, co-founder and vice president of GreyCastle Security.

“We can’t stress enough to take the extra time to validate the efficacy of emails, especially when that email asks for personal or financial information or asks you to click a link.”

AARP’s Fraud Watch Network can help you spot and avoid scams. Sign up for free Watchdog Alerts, review our scam-tracking map, or call our toll-free fraud helpline at 877-908-3360 if you or a loved one suspect you’ve been a victim.

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