Despite this pandemic, predators are still out there for scams, and they are changing their ways constantly. It is important to stay updated on COVID-19 but also be aware of misinformation and scams surrounding the virus.
(Last updated 1/20/22)
Testing and Contact Tracing Scams
Scammers are selling fake and unauthorized at-home COVID-19 test kits in exchange for personal or medical information. Be sure to purchase FDA approved COVID-19 test kits from legitimate providers (DHHS, 2022).
Scammers may also be setting up fake pop-up testing clinics or impersonating health care workers to approach people waiting in long lines at legitimate sites. Scammers offer quick access to fake or unapproved tests while collecting personal, financial, or medical information they can use in identity theft or health insurance scams (Waggoner & Markowitz, 2022).
Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If you receive a suspicious call, hang up immediately (DHHS, 2022).
No government personnel or organization will ask you for your social security number, bank account information, or money when contact tracing (Skiba, 2021).
Mask Related Scams
Scammers may claim to be selling or offering protective or preventative products such as masks and household cleaners. These may be done through robocalls, texts, or social media ads (Waggoner & Markowitz, 2022).
Package Delivery Scams
With many people ordering online, package delivery scams are on the rise. Scammers text you with a link to a package for tracking. Before clicking on any link that is tracking your package, make sure to check what you ordered through their site, and ignore these texts (How to Avoid Package Delivery Scams, 2021).
Property Tax Scams
In Los Angeles County, there have been reports of people trying to fraudulently collect property tax payments from taxpayers’ homes. These individuals are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to conduct in-person visits, claiming the County offices are currently closed. The County of Los Angeles Treasurer and Tax Collector (TTC) does not conduct in-person visits. Do not make payments to anyone requesting these payments and notify local law enforcement.
Vaccine and Treatment Scams
Here are a few scams to be aware of (Coronavirus – Avoiding Scams, 2020):
- Door-to-door Vaccine Scams – In some communities, volunteers go door-to-door to inform people about COVID-19 vaccines. Protect yourself from criminals who are seeking to commit fraud and do not providing personal, medical, or financial details in exchange for vaccine information. Only obtain vaccinations from trusted providers (DHHS, 2022).
- Purchasing Vaccine Cards – Offers to purchase COVID-19 vaccination cards are scams. Valid proof of COVID-19 vaccination can only be provided by legitimate providers administering vaccines (DHHS, 2022).
- Vaccine Survey Scams – Be cautious of COVID-19 survey scams. Do not give personal, medical, or financial information to anyone claiming to offer money or gifts in exchange for participation in a COVID-19 vaccine survey (DHHS, 2022).
- Personal Information (Federal Trade Commission, 2020) – No legitimate person, government, or organization will call you about the COVID-19 vaccine and ask for personal information such as your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number. For legitimate information about the vaccines, trust your doctor and local health department.
- Vaccine list – There are scams claiming to give people the first available vaccine for a payment. There is no such list for people to receive vaccines. A medical provider will inform you when there is an available vaccine.
- Red Cross Tests – The Red Cross is not offering home coronavirus tests. Any claims of this or people asking for donations on behalf of the Red Cross are not legitimate.
- Products Claiming a Cure – There may be information circulating about products and medical treatments claiming to cure the virus. These are fraudulent and should not be considered. Be aware of these products as they can potentially be dangerous to your health
- Investing – Be aware of various investment opportunities. Scammers claim that the stocks of certain companies will go up because they are working on a coronavirus cure. These promotions are fake, and it is best to ignore them.
- Hand Sanitizer – Hand sanitizers have been selling out of stores and people may be turning to DIY hand sanitizer recipes. However, regular hand washing with water and soap are recommended over using and making hand sanitizer. Unless precise measurements are followed, dangerous chemical reactions can occur.
Phishing/Email Scams asking for Personal Information
Criminals may pretend to be the World Health Organization (WHO) or other people/organizations and ask for money or personal information through email, websites, phone calls, text messages, and faxes (Coronavirus – Avoiding Scams, 2020).
- Practice good online safety:
- Verify the sender by checking the email address
- If you do not recognize the email, do not open it
- Emails may be advertising prevention tips, fake information, fake treatments, or fake charities.
- Check the link before you click
- Links and attachments can install malware and steal personal information
- Do not click on links from emails you do not recognize
- Use caution when providing personal information
- Think about why someone would want your information and if it is necessary or not
- Public platforms sharing information do not require a username or password
- Verify the sender by checking the email address
Help and Favor Scams/Errand Scams
- Be aware of fake emails from people who appear to be friends or family. Scammers may hack into emails and send fake emails asking for help or favors such as sending money, gift cards or gift card codes, and more.
- Scammers pretending to be your acquaintances may take advantage of the COVID-19 pandemic and say they or a family member have COVID-19 and ask for money. If you receive one of these emails, call the individual who you think sent the email and verify things through another medium besides email. This will also alert the person that their email has been hacked and they can let others know not to trust any emails sent by them.
- Some people may offer you to take an errand, taking advantage of the fact that you are trying to stay home. These people will often take your money and then run off without completing the errand. Make sure who you ask for an errand is a trusted person (Skiba, 2021).
Fake emails or calls may ask you to donate to specific charities that will help people during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, these are fake calls and your money will not be going to a real charity. All charities in California must be registered with the State Attorney General, Charitable Trust Section, which regulates charitable organization. Overall, do not make donations with gift cards or by wiring money (Coronavirus – Avoiding Scams, 2020).
Stimulus Package Scam
Some scammers are trying to take advantage of people regarding COVID-19 and President Trump’s stimulus package. These scammers call and claim that you qualify for relief money from the government. These claims range from $1,000 to $14,000 (Got a Call, 2020). Unfortunately, we are navigating through unprecedented times and criminals are exploiting COVID-19 pandemic as a way to take advantage of people. Different scams will continue to occur as the COVID-19 situation continues. However, there are a few ways to protect yourself from scams (Got a Call, 2020):
- Avoid opening attachments or links from unknown emails
- Verify the information from a reliable source, such as the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) website or the LA county website on COVID-19
- Do not provide usernames, passwords, or other personal information in response to emails
- Instead of clicking on links, input the website URL manually
Brewster, T. (2020). Coronavirus Scam Alert: Watch Out for These Risky COVID-19 Websites and Emails. Retrieved from https://www.forbes.com/sites/thomasbrewster/2020/03/12/coronavirus-scam-alert-watch-out-for-these-risky-covid-19-websites-and-emails/#192263801099
Coronavirus – Avoiding Scams. (2020). Retrieved from https://dcba.lacounty.gov/portfolio/coronavirus-scams/
Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS). (2022). Fraud Alert: COVID-19 Scams. Retrieved from https://oig.hhs.gov/fraud/consumer-alerts/fraud-alert-covid-19-scams/
Federal Communications Commission. (2021). How to Identify and Avoid Package Delivery Scams. Retrieved from https://www.fcc.gov/how-identify-and-avoid-package-delivery-scams
Federal Trade Commission. (2020). FTC Issues Consumer Tips for Avoiding COVID-19 Vaccine Scams. Retrieved from https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/12/ftc-issues-consumer-tips-avoiding-covid-19-vaccine-scams
Got a Call About Claiming Your COVID-19 Stimulus Check? It’s a Scam. (2020). Retrieved from https://abc7.com/6028082/?ex_cid=TA_KABC_FB&utm_campaign=trueAnthem%3A+Trending+Content&utm_medium=trueAnthem&utm_source=facebook&fbclid=IwAR0tM3JEC0Km0og_Mkr5ZXEGZbabowp821OfHZiThXyjkwTiz6M2sip_y7s
LA County Treasurer and Tax Collector. (2020). County Officials Warn Against Property Tax Scam. Retrieved from https://ttc.lacounty.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/Tax-Scam-Release-10.22.20_.pdf
Landsverk, G. (2020). Holding your breath can’t help you self-diagnose the coronavirus. Here’s what you should do instead. Retrieved from https://www.businessinsider.com/holding-breath-10-seconds-drinking-water-wont-cure-diagnose-coronavirus-2020-3
Skiba, K. (2021). 10 Red-Hot COVID Scams Vexing Older Americans. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2021/covid-19-scams-vexing-older-americans.html
Waggoner, J. & Markowitz, A. (2022). Beware of Robocalls, Texts and Emails Promising COVID-19 Cures or Stimulus Payments. Retrieved from https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2020/coronavirus.html