From fraudulent vaccine claims to bogus cures, there is no lack of Covid-19 scams online these days. We’ve all seen the stimulus scams, phishing and spoofing frauds, and health insurance survey scams, but do you have a handle on the latest coronavirus frauds? The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that, “Scammers have milked Americans out of $545 million in Covid-related fraud since the beginning of 2020 in a range of schemes from online shopping to travel.” The complaints number in the tens of thousands with a huge backlog of investigations ongoing by the FTC.It’s very much like playing a bizarre game of whack-a-mole, where one scam is squashed, another pops up in its place. In order to avoid being one of the potential victims of one of these scams, it is critical to continually stay on top of the latest covid-19 online scam updates. To do this, we have a current and ongoing list of situations to be wary of or avoid altogether.
By now, we all should know not to give out our personal or sensitive information to anyone online. Unfortunately, scammers are experts in disguising themselves as healthcare providers, the federal government, or even a company checking on vaccine side effects. The American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) recently put out an alert (Oct 2021) telling seniors to “Beware of Robocalls, Texts and Emails Promising COVID-19 Cures or Stimulus Payments.” The Department of Health and Human Services warns Americans not to give personal, medical, or financial information to anyone claiming to offer money or gifts in exchange for your participation in a COVID-19 vaccine survey.
Phony Cures or Treatments
At the outset of the pandemic, Americans were desperate for anything that would protect them from the virus. Now, many people are looking for alternative treatments due to misinformation regarding the current vaccines. AARP reports that fraudsters have been overwhelming consumers via text, emails, social media posts, and spoofing websites with pitches for phony remedies, and that's unlikely to abate even with COVID-19 vaccines now widely available.The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says consumers should be on the lookout for these signs of vaccine scams:
Requests that you to pay out of pocket to receive a shot
Ads for vaccines in websites, social media posts, emails or phone calls
Marketers offering to sell or ship doses of COVID vaccines (Source HHS)
Let’s face it, for these criminals, it's all about the money. Common financial scams include health insurance scams looking to “reimburse” you for any expenses you have accumulated due to having the virus. They may ask for access to your banking or healthcare information to deposit your reimbursement but in reality they are there to steal your identity or gain direct access to your accounts. Additionally, there are charity scams that inevitably pop up during global crises. Do not donate to a charity until you have learned how to research legitimate charity organizations. Recently, the US.gov site put out a warning regarding covid funeral expense scams. These scammers pretend to be from FEMA's COVID-19 Funeral Assistance Program and call to offer program registration to family members of people who have died from COVID-19. In this way, the scammers can steal the family members' Social Security numbers and other forms of identification.