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Common COVID-19 Scams & Tips on How to Protect Yourself From Them

by Karlie Watts | May 21, 2020
Common COVID-19 Scams & Tips on How to Protect Yourself From Them


From stimulus checks fraud attempts to suspicious offers and malware, fraudulent activity and potential scams related to COVID-19 have been on the rise during the pandemic. We've compiled some great information on these scams and included some tips on how to identify and avoid falling for a potential scam.


How To Avoid Coronavirus Scams:

  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO) or experts saying that have information about the virus. If the email is purportedly from an official organization, do your due diligence and check it by going to their official website or contact them through their official channels to verify the veracity of the email.
  • Hang up on robocalls. Don't press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
  • Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn't been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
  • Know who you're buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don't.
  • Don't respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
  • Don't click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device and make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don't let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don't do it.
  • Be alert to "investment opportunities" that claim prevention, detection, or cure Coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.


COVID-19 Stimulus Scams

If you receive calls, emails, or other communications claiming to be from the Treasury Department and offering COVID-19 related grants or stimulus payments in exchange for personal financial information, or an advance fee, or charge of any kind, including the purchase of gift cards, please do not respond. These are scams. Do not give out your PayPal account information, Social Security number, bank account number or anything else if someone claims such information is essential to sign you up for a stimulus check relating to the coronavirus pandemic. Please contact the FBI at so that the scammers can be tracked and stopped.

The Warning Signs:

  • When somebody's emphasizing the words "Stimulus Check" or "Stimulus Payment". The official term is economic impact payment.
  • When somebody asks you to sign over your economic impact payment check to them.
  • When somebody asks – be it by phone, email, text or social media – for verification of personal and/or banking information, saying that the information is needed to receive or speed up their economic impact payment.
  • When somebody says they can get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster by working on the taxpayer's behalf. The IRS says that scam could be conducted by social media or even in person.
  • When a scammer sends a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, then tells the taxpayer to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.


IRS Direct Deposit Refund Scam

If you don't have your tax refunds direct-deposited, beware of new and evolving phishing schemes that can target you in particular. If somebody you don't know offers to input your direct deposit or other banking information into the secure portal on your behalf, they're likely trying to commit financial fraud.

The IRS is creating a secure portal on in mid-April so that tax payers can provide correct direct deposit information. If the IRS doesn't have your direct deposit information, it will be sending a check to the address they have on file.


Suspicious Offers

Look out for suspicious offers and never order anything from an unverified vendor. If the offer or discount looks too good to be true, it usually is. Always be vigilant and find and evaluate reviews about the vendor.

Masks and other high-demand products

Watch out for scams that involve products that are in high demand, but whose availability is severely limited. A fraudulent website can be offering scarce or discounted products like face masks since face masks are scarce. By purchasing the mask, you could be falling for a phishing attack and exposing your sensitive personal and payment data to the fraudsters.

Fake testing kits

Fraudsters are offering either fake or non-existent coronavirus testing kits under the guise of medical officials with the necessary certification for their products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down heavily on these sellers and has issued warnings that it has not authorized any tests that could be purchased by people to test themselves.


Malware & Viruses

The World Health Organization (WHO) or national healthcare organizations make ideal targets for fraudsters to impersonate.  An example of their tactics would be to contact you via email asserting that the attachment contains pertinent information to help protect you from the disease. The attachments may contain a Trojan virus designed to steal your personal data.


Business Scams

Late payments and urgent orders

  • Scenerio 1: Companies are shifting to working from home while factories are either ramping up production or limiting their operations depending on the products they manufacture. Fraudsters are impersonating company representatives sending out urgent purchase orders for various materials. As some companies may be in desperate need to have at least some kind of revenue, the recipient may just click on the attached file without giving it further thought.
  • Scenerio 2: Fraudsters send a business a proof of payment so that their supposed order gets taken care of. The attached file may contain a Trojan injector.


Protect yourself from Medicare scams

Scammers are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, the services are unapproved and illegitimate. Fraudsters are targeting beneficiaries in a number of ways, including telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits.

These scammers use the coronavirus pandemic to benefit themselves, and beneficiaries face potential harms. The personal information collected can be used to fraudulently bill Federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft. If Medicare or Medicaid denies the claim for an unapproved test, the beneficiary could be responsible for the cost.

How to stay safe:

  • Beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare or Medicaid numbers.
  • Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.
  • Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites.
  • A physician or other trusted healthcare provider should assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing.
  • If you suspect COVID-19 fraud, contact National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline (866) 720-5721 or



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