On September 8, as the daily coronavirus case count rose to 28,550, the executive editor of The Verge received a strange email. “TC Sottek: We would like to inform you that yesterday you were registered as a left home on 3 occasions. A $ 59 fine has been added to your gov.us account. ”
The fine had increased from $ 35 on September 1, when Andrew J. Hawkins, a transportation reporter, received the same email. They were both told to visit www.gov.us/coronavirus/penalty-payment/tracking for more information.
Unsurprisingly, this wasn’t the US government suddenly taking a more active role in the pandemic. It was a scam, not particularly in tune with the Trump administration’s direct approach to solving the coronavirus crisis. While the links looked legitimate, the gov.us URL was just display text. Once clicked, the link took people to su.onamoc.comano.us, a non-governmental domain, then redirected to a scam website.
The misstep was in full view when Sottek posted the screenshot to a file Verge chat and my colleagues’ replies were more or less “I’d pay $ 59 to leave the house three times in a day” and “damn I was hoping [www.gov.us/coronavirus/penalty-payment/tracking] it was somehow actually a page. “
Are not we all! At this point in the pandemic, I would welcome a severe dad energy from the federal government that would force people to stay indoors if they had the coronavirus. Instead, we have a less-than-half approach where small businesses are closed forever and universities welcome students to campus only to send them home a few weeks later. Because they were throwing parties. Because they are college students.
In March, another viral myth circulated about the Trump administration issuing a national blockade. “Please be forewarned,” he began. “Within 48-72 hours the president will summon what is called the Stafford Act. Stock up on everything you need to make sure you have a two week supply of everything. Please forward to your network. “
The goal seemed to be to sow panic and fear, and possibly encourage people to stock up on toilet paper before they were barred from entering Trader Joe’s. In reality, the Trump administration forced states to enforce the blockade, which allowed them to blame the Democratic governors for the resulting economic free fall.
But anyway, let’s get back to scams. The quarantine scam appears to have a couple of iterations. One, which was sent to Verge policy editor Russell Brandom says it comes from a COVID lab. “Your recent COVID-19 test results are ready,” it reads. “To access the results, log into the account created during registration. You will need to use the username and password you created for your personal account at www.theverge.com/covid19test.” This link also redirects to a scary site that it has nothing to do with The Verge.
The coronavirus pandemic was a gift for scammers, who took advantage of people’s confusion and fear to force them to hand over money. Everyone wants to know about the virus – where it started, how it spreads, when a vaccine might arrive – but very few of these questions are answered. The information vacuum is where scams thrive.
It’s ironic that the gift of these schemes isn’t that Brandom didn’t have a recent COVID-19 test or that Sottek didn’t actually have the virus. It is that at this point in the pandemic, it is obvious that the administration is not the one that has invested in keeping people safe from disease. Indeed, Trump is now focused on reopening schools and calling on Democratic governors who continue to enforce refuge orders in place. The president, seeing that there is nothing to be gained by continuing to talk about coronavirus, seems to have largely moved on. The ever-persistent scammers did not.
Have you received a scam email or phone call? I want to hear it! Write me at firstname.lastname@example.org. If not, you may be charged $ 10.