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15 Coronavirus Scams To Avoid at All Costs

15 Coronavirus Scams To Avoid at All Costs

The coronavirus pandemic has put many Americans in a state of constant fear — fear about their economic stability, their health and the health of their loved ones. Unfortunately, fear can make you an easy target for scammers who are peddling everything from the coronavirus “cures” to get-rich-quick schemes.

Before you hand over any personal information or payment to anyone, beware of these 15 coronavirus-related offers you should avoid.

Last updated: Aug. 18, 2020

1. Economic Stimulus Check Scams

Although most Americans who qualified for a stimulus check already received it, those who haven’t could be desperate to get their hands on their checks and end up falling prey to scammers because of that. Scammers have been promising unwitting stimulus check recipients that they can receive their money faster by clicking a link sent via text message or email, CNBC reported. Clicking the link can allow the scammer to access your phone or computer, and steal sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers or bank account numbers.

Scammers might also contact potential victims via telephone, posing as federal employees and asking for sensitive information, saying that they need the info to be able to send over the stimulus check.

Scammers may also send links to claim your “second stimulus check” — even though no economic stimulus package providing a second check has been passed.

How To Spot This Scam

Anyone who claims they can get you your stimulus money fast is a scammer, according to the Federal Trade Commission. If you have yet to receive your stimulus check, contact the Internal Revenue Service directly.

2. Work-From-Home Job Scams

With many people out of work and numerous businesses closed, many Americans are now looking for ways to make money from home. Some people could be vulnerable to offers of work-from-home jobs that are actually scams, CNBC reported.

Scammers can place ads for ways to make big money from home, but then when you inquire about the job, you are asked to spend money on training, special access or extra services — all for a job that doesn’t really exist. Or you might get a call from someone saying they have a job offer for you, asking for your Social Security information or other personal information upfront — once again for a job that isn’t real.

How To Spot This Scam

The Federal Trade Commission recommends doing your research before accepting any “job offer.” Search the company’s name plus “scam,” “review” and “complaint.” The FTC notes that you should never have to pay money to make money.

3. Sweepstakes Prize Scams

Sweepstakes scams became more prominent during the last financial crisis, and they are commonplace again now that many people are struggling. Scammers are even adding coronavirus “twists” to make sweepstakes scams more believable, including talking about extra precautions taken for prize delivery or blaming the pandemic on delays in getting a prize to a winner, WHNT News 19 reported.

“These prey on people who, if they weren’t in desperate financial straits, might be more resistant to those types of scams,” John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, told CNBC.

You might get a call saying you won a million dollars or diamond jewelry in a sweepstakes that you don’t remember entering, and that you just have to pay a small fee to claim your prize.

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How To Spot This Scam

If you’re told you need to pay taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees to claim your prize, that’s a sign that the sweepstakes is not legitimate, according to the FTC. You should also not be asked to give your bank account or credit card information as part of a sweepstakes.

4. Coronavirus Investing Scams

Many investors have seen their portfolios take a major tumble since the start of the pandemic and might be looking for something new to invest in that seems sure to increase in value. Now, scammers are offering investors the ability to invest in alleged vaccines or cures for COVID-19, CNBC reported. There are legitimate companies you can invest in that are developing coronavirus vaccines — such as AstraZeneca, Pfizer, Moderna and Johnson & Johnson — so not every opportunity to invest is a scam, but be wary of companies making unreliable claims or companies that reach out to you directly about an investing opportunity.

How To Spot This Scam

The Securities and Exchange Commission warns that investors should be extra cautious about any claims that a company’s products or services can help stop the coronavirus.

“These claims may be made as part of fraudulent ‘pump-and-dump’ schemes,” the SEC states on its website. “You may lose significant amounts of money if you invest in a company that makes inaccurate or unreliable claims. You may not be able to sell your shares if trading in the company is suspended.”

The SEC warns that microcap stocks — low-priced stocks offered by small companies — are particularly vulnerable to investment fraud schemes, so be wary of any offers to invest in this type of stock.

5. COVID-19 Test Kit, Cure and Vaccine Scams

Scammers have been posting online offers for vaccinations and home test kits, according to the FTC. The FTC specifically warns about buying a test kit through an ad, as most of these test kits have not been approved by the FDA and may not be accurate. In addition, some fraudsters are offering “free testing” via a robocalling scam. According to a survey by Provision Living, 18% of Americans had received this type of robocall.

Many scammers are also peddling coronavirus “cures” such as teas, essential oils, cannabinol, colloidal silver and intravenous vitamin-C therapies — though none of these have been proven effective.

How To Spot This Scam

Right now, there are no products that have been proven to treat or prevent COVID-19. If you see an offer for any product claiming to treat or prevent the coronavirus, it’s a fake offer.

As for coronavirus testing, there are legitimate venues offering free tests, but you should be wary about robocalls that invite you to get a free test and ask for personal information. Avoid giving any sensitive information out over the phone unless you are speaking to a person or organization you know and trust.

6. Coronavirus Victim Donation Scams

Those of us with the financial means to do so might be looking for ways to donate our money to help healthcare workers, people who lost their jobs and people who have fallen ill due to the coronavirus. And unfortunately, there are scammers looking to take advantage of people’s generosity.

Some scammers are posing as charities claiming to help coronavirus victims, CBS News reported. In these cases, the scammer asks for money upfront as a charitable donation.

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How To Spot This Scam

Before donating to any charity, research it online to make sure it is legitimate. If someone tries to rush you to donate, don’t do it — that’s a sign of a scam. Another sign of a fake charity is if they ask for donations via cash, gift card or money wire, according to the FTC.

7. Hand Sanitizer and Disinfectant Wipes Scams

Coronavirus-related supplies like hand sanitizer and disinfectant wipes are in high demand and low supply, so some scammers might advertise that they have these supplies in stock. According to the FTC, “they claim to have the essentials you need, but in reality, they’re fakes that take your ‘order,’ grab your credit card number and run.”

How To Spot This Scam

Ads for hand sanitizer or antibacterial wipes might lead you to a website that looks like the site of a popular online retailer, so it’s important to double-check the URL before entering any credit card information. Others might sound like legitimate sites but are actually scam sites, like and, which have scammed tens of thousands of Americans who have placed orders for these in-demand items, PC Mag reported.

Only buy from websites and suppliers you know and trust.

8. Coronavirus Tracking App Scams

Some smartphone apps promise to help you track the coronavirus outbreak right from your phone. There are legitimate apps launched by states, like Virginia’s COVIDWISE app, but some apps are just scams used to hack into your phone. Such was the case with an Android app called CovidLock that claimed to track the outbreak, but instead, it allowed hackers to lock the devices and demand ransom from the phone owners, CNET reported. Reason Labs also found that hackers have been using coronavirus-tracking map websites to install malware into people’s browsers.

How To Spot This Scam

Only download apps from trusted platforms, like Google Play and the Apple App Store. And be wary of visiting websites that have coronavirus-related URLs. A study by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. found that coronavirus-themed domain registrations are 50% more likely than other URLs to be from malicious actors, Market Watch reported. Stick to news sources you’re already familiar with to get the latest updates on the coronavirus.

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9. Scammers Claiming To Be the CDC or WHO

You might receive an unsolicited email allegedly sent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. The emails will prompt you to click a link or download a Word document, but it’s not to be trusted.

How To Spot This Scam

A recent phishing scam involved emails sent out purporting to be from the CDC that instructed the user to open an attached Microsoft Office document for details on how to prevent the spread of influenza. The link allowed the sender to install malware on the user’s computer. A ransom note would pop up, and the hacker asked for Bitcoin payment in exchange for the encryption key.

The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization will never send unsolicited emails asking for personal information, Washington, D.C.’s WUSA 9 reported.

If you receive an email claiming to be from one of these organizations, hover the mouse over any included links to see where it leads before clicking it, and do not open any email attachments. The best way to get up-to-date information from the CDC and WHO is to visit their websites directly, according to the FTC.

10. Health Insurance Scams

A scammer might call you with an offer to buy health insurance — these types of calls have been on the rise due to the coronavirus pandemic, the Federal Communications Commission reported. For example, one scam voicemail shared on YouMail included the following script: “The coronavirus is spreading. [To keep] your family safe and secure, speak to one of our health agents about getting you covered with the lowest cost health plan in the country. Now is the time to act. Don’t be late.”

How To Spot This Scam

If you receive a call from an unknown number, don’t pick up. If you do and you get the sense that it might be a scam, hang up immediately. These scammers might offer health insurance from legitimate providers like Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. To make sure the offer is legitimate, your best bet is to call these companies directly.

11. Job Termination Scams

With many people working from home and companies continuing to conduct layoffs as the economy remains weak, scammers are preying on people who are worried about losing their jobs with fraudulent termination phishing emails and invites to fake teleconference meetings, USA Today reported. The emails commonly include a link to find out about a severance package, which leads to malicious software being installed on your computer or personal information being stolen.

People are less connected to their office life and therefore may be more vulnerable to these types of scams now more than ever.

How To Spot This Scam

Double-check that the email is being sent by someone in your organization. The email might look legitimate at first glance but could have a slight variation from the official email formatting. In addition, you should check with your human resources department or your manager about the legitimacy of a layoff notification.

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12. Financial Relief Scams

The Provision Living survey found that 18% of Americans have received a robocall offering financial relief at a time when many people are out of work or are working reduced hours. According to the FTC, calls offering mortgage help are particularly common. These scammers will ask for an upfront payment before providing mortgage assistance.

How To Spot This Scam

According to the FTC, it’s illegal for any company to charge you before they help you with your mortgage, so if a caller asks for an upfront payment, that’s a sign it’s a scam. If you’re having trouble making mortgage payments, talk with your provider to see what options you may have. If you’re already facing foreclosure, contact a legal services organization to find out what can be done to prevent this.

13. Social Security Scams

Social Security scam calls are nothing new. These calls were on the rise before the pandemic hit, with individuals losing millions of dollars to scammers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration in 2019, CNBC reported. But these scammers have taken a new, coronavirus angle, telling victims that their benefits may be suspended or discontinued due to the pandemic-related economic crisis. Or they might offer benefit increases in exchange for an upfront payment. Social Security Administration impersonation scams are the No. 2 most common type of coronavirus impersonation scams after CDC scams, a BeenVerified survey found.

How To Spot This Scam

According to the SSA, any call claiming there is a problem with your account or Social Security number is an automatic red flag. In addition, asking for payment via retail gift cards, wire transfers, prepaid debit cards, internet currency or cash is also a sign of a scam, as the SSA will never ask for this. If you are unsure about the legitimacy of a call, hang up and report it to

14. Contact Tracer Impersonation Scams

Contact tracers can help stop the spread of the coronavirus by alerting people that they may have been exposed to an infected person, but unfortunately, some scammers are taking advantage of unsuspecting victims by impersonating tracers. They may contact people by text, email or phone to try to steal their identity or money via a link, or by asking for personal information or money outright.

How To Spot This Scam

A legitimate contact tracer may ask for information that includes your name and address, health information and/or the names of places and people you have visited. According to the FTC, they will never ask for money, a bank account or credit card number, your Social Security number or your immigration status. These are all signs of a scam. The FTC also warns not to click any links in a text or email coming from a contact tracing impersonator, as this can lead to malware being installed on your device.

15. Fake Refund Scams

Many service providers, including car insurance companies and utility companies, have been offering refunds and discounts amid the pandemic — so you might not be suspicious of a robocall that claims you are owed a refund.

“The robocall scam will call you up and say: We cannot provide services due to Covid-19, but you have been charged $399, press one to claim a refund,” Bill Versen, chief product officer for Transaction Network Services, told CNBC.

When you “claim your refund,” you are asked for financial information such as your credit card number for reimbursement — and just like that, your information gets stolen.

How To Spot This Scam

These robocalls are often vague about what the refund is for. Make sure you know exactly who is calling and avoid giving credit card information over the phone. To make sure the refund offer is legitimate, contact your service provider directly.

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This article originally appeared on 15 Coronavirus Scams To Avoid at All Costs