The St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office issued a statement of warning Monday about an apparent phone scam attempting to garner registration for the “Shot at a million” COVID Lottery, one of a growing number of such cases on the heels of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The pandemic has been accompanied by a parallel outbreak of coronavirus scams, many targeting older Americans, according to the AARP.
As of June 28, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 535,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments, nearly three-fourths of them involving fraud or identity theft. These scams have reportedly cost consumers more than $480 million in total loss.
Perpetrators are using phishing emails and texts, fraudulent social media posts, robocalls and impostor schemes while closely following current headlines and adapting their messages and tactics to reflect new medical and economic issues.
In Monday’s case, the Sheriff’s Office noted it had received a number of complaints of calls from people claiming to provide assistance in registering for the Shot at a Million, also referred to as the “Louisiana COVID Lottery”.
“We were able to obtain a telephone number from one of our citizens and the number was registered to a company that does not appear to have any involvement with the COVID Lottery,” the Sheriff’s Office statement read. “This most likely is done with a criminal practice known as spoofing, where a criminal calls you using a telephone number that they can clone to resemble any telephone number of their choosing.”
Such cases can be especially dangerous as kernels of truth can be mixed in with a scam, in theory – a very real phone number that can be verified, or as in this case, the actual “Shot at a million” promotion that is sponsored by the state’s department of health and is ongoing.
For example, as in this case, several states holding vaccine lotteries to encourage people to get COVID-19 shots and officials nationwide are warning of phony calls, texts and emails claiming the target has won a big cash award for getting their shot, then requesting personal or financial information in order to process the prize.
In addition, the FTC recently issued an alert about a likely new wave of stimulus scams as the government begins sending out advance child tax credit payments to millions of eligible families in July as part of the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Act.
Other scams attempt to exploit the fears of the vulnerable. The FTC and FDA have reportedly sent dozens of warnings to companies selling unapproved products they claim can cure or prevent COVID-19. Other signs of potential COVID scams include requests for pay out of pocket to receive a shot or to be placed on a vaccine waiting list and marketers offering to sell of ship doses of COVID-19 vaccines. The FBI claims some are advertising fake COVID-19 antibody tests in hopes of retrieving personal information to use in order to steal identities or defraud health insurance.
“Understand, as we always say, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” the Sheriff’s Office’s statement continued before directing those wishing to register for the actual “Shot at a Million” to the website shotatamillion.com and advising citizens to keep personal information private if not sharing with a trusted source.
Those parish residents who feel they may have fallen victim to a scam are asked to call (985) 783-6807 to report the issue.