Don’t Fall for It: Protecting Yourself from Online Scams

A woman looks at a computer while wearing headphones

Nov. 16, 2020
By Nathan Olds, Senior Director, Consumer Fraud

This year has brought rapid and continual change in every facet of our daily lives. That includes an increase in fraud risks related to the pandemic. Con artists are taking advantage of COVID-19 fears and finding new ways to manipulate consumers, who unfortunately lose more than $1 billion each year to scams.

Walmart wants to continue to help protect our customers and associates from becoming victims of fraud. This means we all must be on the lookout for customers who are victims of scams, work together to identify potential fraudsters or criminals trying to use Walmart to perpetrate their frauds and take action to stop wrongdoing. Again this year, we are a proud supporter of International Fraud Awareness Week, which aims to bring attention to the many ways people can be taken advantage of online and IRL.

Here are some best practices to keep you and your loved ones secure as the continued impact of COVID-19 is felt around the world:

  • Be suspicious of requests to send money. Scammers may be targeting customers, asking them to send money in order to reserve a coronavirus vaccine or government stimulus check. If you’re asked to wire money, provide a money order or load a prepaid/gift card to pay to reserve a coronavirus vaccine or to obtain a government stimulus check, it is not legitimate. Visit IRS.gov for the most up-to-date information.
  • Don’t click links in unsolicited text messages or emails. Scammers go to great lengths to make their messages seem real, and often prey on people’s trust in loved ones and familiar brands. Clicking links could expose you to scams and malware attacks. For example, you might receive a text telling you to “click here to track your package.” If you are in fact expecting a delivery, instead of clicking the link, return to the site where you originally placed the order.
  • Be wary of where you purchase high-demand items. Online shopping fraud that seeks to exploit high-demand for PPE and other COVID-19-related products is on the rise. Scammers and companies are taking advantage of consumers’ fear of COVID-19 by advertising the availability and quick delivery of high-demand items, knowing they can’t deliver on those promises. If you aren’t familiar with the company you’re buying from, double-check their legitimacy before making a purchase.
  • Protect your health information. Not every COVID-19 testing site is legitimate. A fake site might look real, but scammers can cause damage by stealing your personal information and potentially spreading the virus due to improper sanitation protocols. If you’re unsure whether a COVID-19 testing site is legit, check with your local law enforcement. Walmart currently supports COVID-19 testing at many pharmacy drive-thru windows and other Community Testing Sites across the United States. Visit MyQuestCOVIDtest.com to get screened and find the closest Quest and Walmart testing location near you.
  • Don’t use gift cards to pay bills. No legitimate government entity, including the IRS, Treasury Department, FBI or local police department, will accept any form of gift cards as payment. Also, other businesses do not accept payments in the form of Walmart Gift Cards. For example, you will never be legitimately asked to pay your utility bills, bail money, debt collection and hospital bills with Walmart Gift Cards.
  • Be aware of fear tactics. Scammers often use fear and intimidation to create a sense of urgency. They may insist you owe money to the government or suggest one of your loved ones is in trouble. Staying informed can help you know the signs and recognize a potential scam. Check the Federal Trade Commission and Walmart’s fraud alerts for more information.

From training store and club associates to spot signs of fraud to protecting customer data 24/7, keeping customers safe from fraud is part of our culture of integrity. Learn more about how you can protect yourself from fraudulent activity and stay safe throughout the pandemic.