COVID-19 Fraud and Scams
Federal and local law enforcement agencies across the country are warning the public about coronavirus and COVID-19 scams. Criminals are tricking people into giving personal information and/or money with false promises like COVID-19 cures and coronavirus testing kits.
Below are some tips from L.A. Care, the Office of Inspector General at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, and the U.S. Department of Justice.
Please be careful and be aware of coronavirus scams. These and new types of COVID-19 fraud schemes are expected to increase over the coming weeks.
Fake Cures and Treatment
There are individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online. Scammers are also targeting seniors with door-to-door visits. The scammer will ask for a Medicare or Medicaid number with the promise of providing a coronavirus testing kit.
- Ignore offers from anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19.
- Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites.
- Be cautious with your Medicare, Medicaid, or health plan member identification number.
Remember, if a vaccine or successful treatment becomes available, you won’t hear about it the first time through an email, online ad, a spam call or unsolicited sales pitch.
Counterfeit Masks and Testing Kits
Be aware that there are counterfeit products related to COVID-19. This includes coronavirus testing kits, as well as hand sanitizers, disinfecting wipes and other supplies.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is also being counterfeited. You’ve heard about this equipment many times on the news. They include the N95 respirator masks, goggles, full face shields, protective gowns and gloves that hospitals desperately need.
Criminals are calling victims pretending to be clinic or hospital officials. They will make up stories about one of your relatives falling sick with COVID-19. The scammers then request payment for their medical treatment, or may ask for additional personal information.
Scammers are also using robo-calls. These robo-calls use fear and lies about the coronavirus to make you buy fake health insurance. They may also ask for your personal information in order to get a free coronavirus test kit. This is all fraud to get your private information for use in other schemes.
Watch out for fake emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or other government agencies. These fake emails offer information, products, or services related to COVID-19. The scammers want you to tap links to malicious websites that will infect and lock your device. Then they might ask for payment to unlock your device.
- Look carefully at the website addresses and email addresses in these emails. Scammers often use addresses that are only a little bit different from the real thing. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
- Do not open emails asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. This is another scam.
As we try to help each other, criminals are trying to use our goodwill by asking for donations for fake charities.
Research any charities or crowdfunding sites that ask for donations in connection with COVID-19. An organization may not be legit even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name. The scammers may even copy logos from other real companies, or create fake ones that look very professional.
- Before donating, do your own research the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.
- Be careful with any business, charity, or individual requesting payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Don’t send money through any of these channels.
For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
Make Internet Security a Habit
- Don't click on links or open email attachments from someone you don't know or an unverified source. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device. If an email is from someone you know, but it feels off or suspicious, don't open it and contact that person another way.
- Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.
- Know who you are dealing with.
Criminals will continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home.
The U.S. Department of Justice has a National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline. Call 1-866-720-5721 to report any fraud related to COVID-19 and the coronavirus. You can also send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
For scams related to the Internet (e.g., email, websites, social media), you can also file a complaint online at the FBI Internet Complaint Center.