It is impossible to turn anywhere and not see news about the Coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak that is threatening the world right now. While most of us are trying to prepare the best we can, protect ourselves and our loved ones, and follow the guidelines set by our government, some bad actors are out there preying on the most vulnerable.
Here are a few things to know about the rampant COVID-19 fraud and scams floating around, including how to identify and avoid them.
Some Known Coronavirus Scams:
There is No Known Cure or Vaccine for COVID-19 at this Time
You can’t buy a Coronavirus cure. Many fraudsters are claiming to have products or methods to cure or prevent COVID-19. These do not exist yet. The virus is still too new for any cures or vaccines – anyone who says they have one is trying to scam you. Any vaccines are months away at best as of March 2020. You will not hear about a cure or vaccine from a unsolicited email or call, first. Any breakthroughs like this would be covered by national news.
Undelivered Medical and Cleaning Supplies
Many online “companies” are claiming to have stock of high-demand products such as cleaning supplies, health and medical supplies, and personal disinfectants. These claims are especially rampant on social media sites such as Facebook, spam emails, and “ads” on malicious websites. If you order products from these “companies,” you will never receive them and will lose the money you spent. You may also experience further fraud on the credit or debit card you used to make the purchase.
Fake Coronavirus Test Claims
Scammers pretending to be the American Red Cross have been visiting the homes of elderly and high-risk patients, claiming to have in-home COVID-19 tests. Once the victim agrees and lets the proposed tester into their home, they are robbed. There are currently no at-home Coronavirus tests, whether administered by an organization like the American Red Cross, nor by mail, etc. If anyone offers you a Coronavirus test besides the ones being administered at reputable medical centers, it is a scam. Do not comply.
Some scammers are posing as well-known and new charities looking for money for those affected by the Coronavirus. Be sure to independently research each charity that you give to, before giving. Even if it seems to be a charity you have given to before, make sure you verify it is who you think it is, and not a scammer hiding behind a similar name. Instead of giving over a phone call from the “charity”, through texts, or through email, go to the charity’s known website or call them yourself to donate.
Scammers Pretending to be Care Providers Needing Payment
A new version of known gift card and credit card scams, a ploy has arisen in which the scammer calls claiming to be a medical care provider needing payment for treating a family member infected with COVID-19. If a loved one has been confirmed to have the coronavirus, no health care providers will call for payment. Medical offices CANNOT be paid by gift card. Do not comply.
One of the most popular scams taking place during this pandemic is price gouging. Some people stocked up with extreme amounts of medical supplies, cleaning supplies, toilet paper, etc., and are now attempting to sell it at a much higher price – some as much as or more than 500 times the original cost. Many items will be restocked as the supply chains catch up with current demand.
Mobile App Malware
Scammers posing as the CDC and state Departments of Health are asking concerned people to download mobile apps to receive the latest Coronavirus news. These apps are infected with malware which allow the scammer to retrieve personal and financial information from your device. Only download mobile apps from the app store on your device, such as the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, or from verified, trusted websites.
Only Download Media from Trusted Sources
Similar to the above warning about downloading mobile apps, also be wary of downloading any kind of media, such as podcasts, PDF documents, etc., without first verifying their source. Some scammers are preying on people looking for information on the coronavirus by creating seemingly informational documents that are infected with malware to steal your personal information.
Rumors are Everywhere!
There are rumors flying left and right about “government-mandated closures,” where the virus originated, cures, and more. When serious decisions and discoveries are made about mandates, closures, cures, etc., they will be covered by large news stations, including CNN, Fox News, CBS, and more, or will be shared by the CDC, White House, or your state’s Department of Health. Do not trust friends’ Facebook posts about something someone told them at work, small “news” sites that you’ve never heard of, etc., for this type of information. Rumors like these incite fear, panic, and hoarding, which only makes the current situation worse. Don’t believe anything that you have not seen verified by a trusted source.
Tips to Avoid COVID-19 Scams:
- Independently verify the identity of any company, charity, or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.
- Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products, or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often use addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov.”
- Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies, or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact you this way.
- Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.
- Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is operating and up to date.
- Ignore offers for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure, or treatment. Remember, if there is a medical breakthrough, you won’t hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad, or unsolicited sales pitch.
- Check online reviews and social media comments of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.
- Research any charities soliciting donations in connection with COVID- 19 before giving. For online resources on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
- Be wary of 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 the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites. You can also find updated information on Patriot’s website on our COVID-19 Updates page.
Please don’t fall victim to any of these frauds! If you suspect you may be a victim of fraud on a Patriot account or debit or credit card, please call our Contact Center at 888-777-9982 and we will help you take steps to secure your account.