As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread, COVID-19 scams are spreading just as quickly. As of Nov. 12, there have been over 249,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments. Two-thirds of those complaints involve identity theft or fraud, with a reported loss of $183 million and median loss of $320.
Scammers are using a variety of techniques including phishing emails and texts, robocalls, imposter schemes, fake social media posts and more. Here’s some tips to know what to look for and how to avoid falling for these scams:
Know the difference between a real contact tracer and a scammer. Legitimate tracers may need your name and address, health information and the names of places and people you have visited. Contact tracers won’t need money or financial information. Never pay someone claiming to be a contract tracer, give out your social security number or other financial information.
Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government, including Coronavirus stimulus payments. Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS, never in response to a call, text or email. You’ll never have to pay to get your stimulus money, provide your social security number, bank account or other financial information.
Ignore offers about vaccinations, miracle treatments and COVID-19 cures. Scammers are actively selling products right now that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19 without any proof that they work. Common products include teas, colloidal silver, essential oils, cannabinol and intravenous vitamin-C therapies. Also, be wary of home COVID-19 test kits – most kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA and may not be accurate.
Research before you donate. Don’t let anyone pressure or rush you into making a donation. Do your homework before donating to COVID-19 victims or virus research, and never donate in cash, gift card or by wiring money. For more information on how to donate wisely, visit FTC.gov.
Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls for a variety of scams, including COVID-19 scams. Common scams related to the pandemic include low-priced health insurance, stimulus payments, contact tracing information gathering and work-at-home schemes.
Watch out for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. To get the latest information on COVID-19, use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus. Never click on links or download information from sources that you don’t know.