How to Identify and Avoid COVID-19 Scams

Top Four Types of Scams to Be Aware Of

November 19, 2020
 

The Coronavirus pandemic continues to impact the world in many ways. From hospitalizations to closures, to medical and treatment scams - it is important to identify these scams so you can avoid cybercriminals who are trying to take advantage of the worldwide fear.

To protect yourself and your family from these cybercriminals, we have identified their tactics so you and your family can avoid COVID-19 scams.

Cyber security and online internet scams with personal information
It's crucial you know common types of scams related to COVID-19 so you can protect yourself.
 

Four Types of COVID-19 Scams to Be Aware Of
 

  1. Medical Scams

    There are scammers who offer COVID-19 tests or other offerings in exchange for personal and Medicare information. Some may also pretend to be contact tracers who need to get crucial information from you regarding possible exposure to someone with the virus. The cybercriminals are targeting people through different tactics, which include:
  • Telemarketing calls
  • Text messages
  • Social media platforms
  • Door-to-door visits

The detailed information collected by the cybercriminals would be used to bill federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft. If these Medicare or Medicaid businesses deny the claim for an unapproved test, the individual who was scammed is responsible for the cost.

How to Identify COVID-19 Medical Scams

Be on the lookout for:

  • Unsolicited requests for Medicare or Medicaid numbers. It is important to know that Medicare will not call individuals to offer Coronavirus-related services or products.
  • Unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or other supplies.
  • Someone who pretends to be a contact tracer, but is asking you for money or personal financial information. Legitimate tracers only need your health information.
  • Hyperlinks in text messages or emails from unknown individuals about COVID-19 - do not click or respond to them.
  • Advertisements and other offerings for COVID-19 testing on social media sites. If you made an appointment for a COVID-19 test online, make sure the location is an actual testing site.

Remember that only a physician or other trusted healthcare individuals should assess your condition and approve any COVID-19 testing requests.
 

  1. Vaccine and Treatment Scams

Fraudulent individuals may advertise fake vaccines, cures, and advice on unproven COVID-19 treatments. At the time of this article (November 2020), the FDA has not approved any vaccines or treatments for COVID-19. While there are vaccines and treatments being studied in clinical trials, these products are still in the beginning stages of development.

Vaccine and treatment scams can come in a variety of avenues, typically offering one of the following that promises to cure or prevent Coronavirus (or other conditions):

  • Dietary supplements
  • Medical devices
  • Medical tests
  • Medicine
  • Tea
  • Essential oils
  • Tinctures (concentrated herbal extracts)
  • Colloidal silver
  • Other foods

To stop these scammers, the FDA has been working with retailers in order to remove these misleading products from the shelves and online stores.


Medical and treatment scams can involve promising vaccines or magical cures.
Do not trust any unsolicited offers for a vaccine or medical treatment.


How To Identify COVID-19 Vaccine and Treatment Scams

Be on the lookout for:

  • Products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases
  • Treatments claiming to be a quick fix. Remember that few diseases or conditions can be treated quickly or with “miracle cures”
  • Overly persuasive “personal testimonials” - these are no substitute for scientific evidence
     
  1. Charity Scams
     

 

Scammers target individuals on their generosity and goodwill. During a national pandemic, they have leverage to tug on heartstrings perhaps even more than during normal times.

 

 These scammers may pretend to be representatives of a charity. They tend to reach out by calling, emailing, or approaching you on the street. Some scammers even create a fake charity name and website that looks as if it’s a legitimate charity organization. If you fall for their charity scam, it’s likely that your money is going right into the scammer’s pocket.

These scams can then lead to identity theft. They may ask for your personal information such as your social security number, bank account information, or credit card numbers. It is important to be alert when you’re asked to donate money.

How To Identify COVID-19 Charity Scams

You should always take time researching any charity to verify the organization is legitimate before you decide to donate. Visit this helpful website on the Federal Trade Commission’s website for some excellent tips on how to do this.

Be on the lookout for:

  • Someone calling you on the phone and pressuring you to give money immediately. Real charities will not pressure you to give immediately.
  • A request for payment by wire transfer, cash, or a gift card. These are common requests by scammers.
  • Thank you letters suggesting you’ve donated to the charity in the past. It’s possible they’re not from a real charity, but instead sneakily aiming to convince you that you’ve donated before and must’ve just forgotten. They hope you’ll believe the charity is legitimate and you should donate “again.”
  • A charity asking for your bank account information or credit card numbers by phone or through email. Protect your personal information - real charities will not ask for this type of information.
  • Emails with attachments. These attachments often contain malware or viruses that can infect your computer, so it’s best to delete them.
     
  1. Shopping Scams

Some cybercriminals are creating fake stores, social media accounts, e-commerce websites, and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies related to the COVID-19 virus. These supplies may include hand sanitizer, toilet paper, and face masks. Scammers will take your money for themselves and you will never receive the merchandise.

How To Identify Covid-19 Shopping Scams

Be on the lookout for:

  • Negative online reviews and complaints. Check out the product or store before ordering.
  • Sellers who ask you to send money to someone else. If you’re buying a product online, it should be a secure, simple payment process through a trusted vendor.
  • Sellers who ask you to pay through a wire transfer, gift cards, prepaid card, or a bank-to-bank transfer.
  • Misspellings of words. Legitimate, professional companies should have professional marketing collateral and websites that are free of errors.

When in doubt, stick to websites and companies that you know when it comes to shopping online.  


Older adult female online shopping on laptop
Make sure you shop, donate, and browse online only on sites you know and trust.
 

Protect You and Your Loved Ones from COVID-19 Scams
 

As technology becomes increasingly sophisticated and the worldwide pandemic continues to cause fear, now more than ever we need to better understand COVID-19 scams. Fraudsters are on the rise by using fear and uncertainty to scam others - but not you!

Do not give out personal information or answer calls from unknown numbers. Be suspicious of things that are too good to be true. Do your research on solicitations and other companies to protect yourself, your personal information, and your family.

Visit the
Federal Trade Commission’s website for more excellent tips and information about Coronavirus scams.



 

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