Scam Alert: Thieves Are Working Hard to Prey on Your COVID-19 Fears and to Steal Your Money
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Scam Alert: Thieves Are Working Hard to Prey on Your COVID-19 Fears and to Steal Your Money

It may be tempting to believe really good news regarding this viral outbreak, but news that is too good to be true comes with a heavy price tag

March 23, 2020

With the uncertainty looming over the COVID-19 pandemic, people are anxiously awaiting any news that will indicate when the crisis will be over. Scammers, unfortunately, know this and have taken advantage of the fear and confusion. They are hard at work coming up with cons to steal your money by preying on your worries. Remember that promises of COVID-19 testing and treatments are certainly scams.

Be Alert for Scams

Scammers never take vacations. In fact, it is during times of crisis that scammers ramp up their activities in order to take advantage of good people like us. But you don't have to become a victim. Keep alert for signs of scams, especially those that make promises that even national experts aren't making. Remember that if it seems to good to be true, it is too good to be true.

No Miracle Cures

Unfortunately, there are no miracle cures for a variety of diseases and illnesses, including COVID-19 / Coronavirus. While research is continuing and vaccines and other treatments may be on the horizon, they are still a long way from becoming reality and won't be of any benefit in the here and now. Keeping that in mind, know that anyone who is promoting a treatment or cure for any disease or illness, including COVID-19, is trying to take advantage of you. Don't fall for it. Your doctor and public health officials are still the best sources of treatment information for this virus.

Don't hand over money or info

The goal of most scammers is to get a quick payday, though sometimes they try to get your sensitive personal information so they can use it for an even larger payday. Never hand over money or sensitive information to someone you don't know, especially if you didn't make the initial contact. It's nearly impossible to get your money back after giving it to a scammer and impossible to prevent a scammer from using your personal information. Once it's out there, it's out there.

Gift cards are Red Flags

It used to be that scammers wanted you to pay by wire transfer, which was a fairly quick way of getting your money and running with it. But now that it's so easy to get gift cards, gift cards have become the payment method of choice by scammers. Once you give a gift card number to a scammer, that scammer drains the gift card balance within seconds, leaving you with nothing. And once you realize you've been scammed, there is no way to get the money back. Once it's gone, it's gone. So if you are being pressured into paying a certain way, red flags should be going up. And if you are being told to pay with a gift card, you are guaranteed to be dealing with a scammer and should cease all communications immediately.

Talk to your doctor

No one knows more about who you are inside than your doctor. So if you have any health questions, including whether a particular product will be effective against COVID-19, you should be contacting your doctor. Even if you can't reach your doctor, you can always seek out information from other medical or public health professionals. But rest assured that if a treatment or prevention strategy were to become available for this virus, it will be front and center on all news and media outlets.

Work directly with the government

The primary focus right now is on preventing the spread of this disease and managing the symptoms and care of those who have contracted it. But the focus will eventually shift to the economic impact of this virus and relief efforts for those who have suffered the hardest. With that being said, be on the lookout for scams that promise to help you financially as a result of this pandemic. Government relief and assistance programs are likely to spring up within the coming months. If you desire to take advantage of any of them, you should be working directly with the government agencies that sponsor them, not third parties that you cannot verify have any legitimate association. Scammers will be working hard to prey on your desire for financial assistance once the spread of the virus has subsided.

Types of COVID-19 Scams

  • Individuals or businesses selling cures for COVID-19;
  • Online offers for vaccinations and test kits;
  • Phishing emails or texts from entities posing as the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC);
  • Malware inserted in mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 that can steal information stored on devices;
  • Malicious COVID-19 websites and apps that can gain and lock access to devices until a ransom payment is made;
  • Solicitations for donations to fake charities or crowdfunding sites

Tips to avoid scams

  • Do not purchase items that purport to cure COVID-19. Currently there are no vaccines, pills, drinks, lotions or any other product available on the market that can treat or cure COVID-19.
  • Do not purchase COVID-19 test kits online.
  • Do not click on links or reply to texts from unknown sources as these may download malware and viruses to computers or devices.
  • Be particularly aware of emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO, claiming to have vital information about the virus. Instead, go directly to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization.
  • When it comes to donations, do not let a scammer rush you into making a donation. Instead, take the time to do extensive research online.
  • Do not make a donation in cash, via gift card, or a wire transfer, and do not provide your banking information or debit card numbers.