Beware of COVID-19 Scammers
By edhat staff
Scams and fraudulent services have increased since the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic caused local residents to self-isolate.
U.S. Attorney General William Barr issued a statement Friday “urging the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19.” The statement included a list of potential schemes such as phishing emails, malicious websites, and illegitimate or non-existent charities.
On top of the usual scam methods, authorities in Florida are warning residents of scammers approaching people's homes in white lab coats pretending to be from the local health department or Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The Daytona Beach Police Department and the Palm Beach County Sheriff’s Office have both posted warnings about this, reports USA Today.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) stated scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding COVID-19 and provided tips to combat the nuisance.
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. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure 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.
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).
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.
The FTC and Federal Drug Administration (FDA) have jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the Coronavirus. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.
The FTC says the companies have no evidence to back up their claims — as required by law. The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus. Read more about the warning letters.
Update by Santa Barbara County District Attorney's Office
District Attorney Joyce Dudley Warns of Scams Related to the Coronavirus
Santa Barbara County District Attorney Joyce is informing the public that scams related to the coronavirus, also known as COVID-19, are rapidly increasing as the public health emergency continues. According to the FBI, the scams fall into several categories: 1) selling phony products that don’t exist or don’t work; 2) overcharging for goods in high demand, such as face masks or hand sanitizers; 3) emails supposedly from WHO or the CDC requesting personal information; and 4) bogus charities seeking donations.
In particular, District Attorney Dudley said that the FBI advises everyone to be on the lookout for the following:
- email asking you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government;
- anyone selling products that claim to prevent, treat, diagnose or cure COVID-19;
- email claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) offering information on the virus if you click on a link.
Protect yourself and help stop criminal activity by remembering the following tips:
- Don’t open attachments or click links within emails from senders you don’t recognize.
- Do not provide your personal information (username, password, date of birth, social security number, etc.) in response to an email or robocall.
- Do not provide your Medicare number to anyone other than your doctor or health care provider.
- Verify the web address of legitimate websites and manually type them into your browser.
District Attorney Dudley asked anyone who believes they have been a victim of an internet scam or a cybercrime or want to report suspicious activity, it should be reported on the FBI’s website at www.ic3.gov.