Scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic as a tactic to exploit the fear and uncertainty of the disease spread. Scammers have devised numerous methods for defrauding people in connection with COVID-19. They are setting up websites, contacting people by phone and email and posting disinformation on social media platforms.
Here are some examples of scams linked to COVID-19:
- Treatment scams: Scammers are offering to sell fake cures, vaccines, and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
- Supply scams: Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
- Provider scams: Scammers are contacting people by phone and email, pretending to be doctors and hospitals that have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19 and demanding payment for that treatment.
- Charity scams: Scammers are soliciting donations for individuals, groups, and areas affected by COVID-19.
- Phishing scams: Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
- App scams: Scammers are also creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.
- Investment scams: Scammers are offering online promotions on various platforms, including social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.
How to Protect Yourself
Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There currently are no publicly-available vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19 online or in stores.
Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources.
Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. For more information from the Federal Trade Commission, click here.
Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card or by wiring money, don’t do it.