Scammers are never ones to just let an opportunity to profit go by. COVID-19 (or, more specifically, the fear it has engendered in so many) has proven to be an especially good opportunity.
Over the past few months, we’ve touched on charity scams and stimulus check scams designed to trick people out of their economic recovery funds. But there are so many more scams these days that use COVID as a lure to defraud people on a variety of levels.
Some of the more prevalent COVID-19 scams include:
-Medical-grade N95 masks for sale
-Tests and cures
-Stimulus-related grants or loans
-Contact tracing calls
-Online medical surveys
The scam: There is an ad or online classified listing promising the availability of N95 masks for sale. Once you provide payment, the scammer will just take your money and run. If they send anything at all, it’s a cheap paper mask; definitely not medical-grade.
The truth: Medical-grade masks are still a hot commodity, and so they may still be hard to find. But to ensure you don’t get ripped off, you should limit your search to a reputable retailer if you need a mask of that type.
Cures for COVID-19
The scam: Someone will call or send an email advertising a COVID-19 testing kit or vaccine. Or they could offer herbs, supplements, or other products that are supposed cures or preventatives for the disease.
The truth: As of this writing, there is no working vaccine available yet for COVID-19. Nor has the FDA approved any supplements or foods you can take to ward off the virus. And any legitimate testing is only available through healthcare providers. Not only should you be extremely wary of tests, but you should never ingest anything that comes from an unknown source.
The scam: A government agency will offer a stimulus-related grant or loan to someone who owns a small business or is unemployed. Under the guise of making sure someone is qualified, the scammer will request his or her private information, which then will be used for fraudulent purposes.
The truth: So far, there has only been one round of small business loans and economic recovery payments to individuals. Talks about another round may continue. But as of right now, no one is authorized to offer government-backed loans or grants to anyone as a result of the pandemic.
The scam: Someone from a local health department calls with the claim that a person has been in contact with someone infected with COVID-19. Then, the tracer requests a form of payment before they can continue.
The truth: Payment is never required as part of official contact tracing. If you are contacted by a supposed tracer who then requests payment before they can tell you anything, you can assume that it is a scam.
The scam: A scammer will reach out to those in the public who are willing to participate in a survey to help researchers with their study of COVID-19. As part of this survey, they request participants’ personal information.
The truth: There are a number of legitimate surveys and studies going on about COVID-19. But they shouldn’t require any personally identifiable information. Any questions should be limited to COVID-19 and overall health issues.
How to Protect Yourself
Never just give someone you don’t know personal information or payment. Do your research to confirm the legitimacy of a person or company that’s offering masks or supplements, or reaching out with supposedly free financial help. You can perform this kind of research quickly via a general online search or a dedicated people search.
Scammers often rely on fear or panic to get their marks to act without thinking. In the case of COVID-19 scams, try not to let fear for your health or financial situation keep you from carefully analyzing the truth and accuracy of scammers’ claims.
For more information on COVID-19 and other types of scams, read all about them on the PeopleFinders blog.
Image attribution: Photo by InkheartX – www.shutterstock.com