8 Coronavirus Scams to Watch out for
As we have seen, a pandemic can bring out the best in people.
Front-line medical workers risking their own lives. People hand-sewing face masks for hospitals in short supply. Quarantined apartment dwellers singing to each other from their balconies.
Unfortunately, though, a pandemic can also bring out the worst. It can attract heartless scam artists who see people's fears as something to cash in on.
As COVID-19 has spread, so have these scams.
On March 9, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to seven companies selling products that looked suspiciously like snake oil.
But that was just the first wave. Since then, new varieties of scam artists have surfaced.
Here a few of them:
- Scam drive-up testing sites: In Louisville, Kentucky, authorities were investigating several pop-up coronavirus test sites charging $250 per "test" that Metro Council President David James has denounced as scams.
- Fake emails and texts: This has long been a popular phishing technique of scammers, and now they're exploiting people's fears to prod them into making an ill-advised response. The scammer may pretend to be someone you know or an authoritative person with information about the coronavirus. The goal here is to gain access to their victims' personal information in order to steal money or their identification.
- Social Security scams: Scammers have always targeted older people, but COVID-19 has created a new twist. Scammers send out official-looking letters saying that the recipients' Social Security benefits have been suspended because of the pandemic and listing a number to call. When victims call the number, they are told they must pay a fee or fine to get their benefits reinstated.
- Medicare scams: Looking to victimize older people again, Medicare scammers call Medicare recipients saying they have a coronavirus vaccine or preventive medicine that's covered by Medicare. All they need is a co-pay via credit card information or bank routing number.
- Stimulus check scams: With this one, scammers pose as government officials and contact individuals awaiting their government stimulus checks by phone, email, or text, and ask their intended victims to supply their bank routing numbers for delivery of their payments.
- Fake coronavirus websites: There's reportedly been an explosion of these, offering "vaccines," home tests, face masks, etc.
- Investment scams: After the stock market went into a nosedive, scammers saw an opportunity to create schemes touting products of publicly traded companies that will prevent coronavirus spread or cure COVID-19. The Securities and Exchange Commission warns that these are oftentimes speculative claims made for the sole purpose of increasing stock values.
- Fake charities: They might sound noble, but the beneficiaries of fake charities are scammers, not COVID-19 victims.
If you have received any unsolicited coronavirus-related phone calls, emails, or texts, you should exercise caution in responding. If you're not sure, this list from the Federal Trade Commission might help.
And if you see something you think is a scam, contact the attorney general's office in your state. If you do, you might be saving people from further hardship at the scummy hands of a scam artist.
- Coronavirus Snake Oil: What Is the Law? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
- Price Gouging, Cancellations, and Other Consumer Issues During the Pandemic (FindLaw's COVID-19 Legal Center)
- What Can You Do About Medical Bills for Your Coronavirus Care? (FindLaw's Law and Daily Life)
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