How to Avoid Coronavirus Scams

The current coronavirus, or COVID-19, outbreak has caused a lot of fear and uncertainty in the world. Unfortunately, unscrupulous people are preying on the fear by trying to scam people during the crisis. They’re using old methods like robocalls or phishing emails, but inserting coronavirus-specific twists like offering cures for the virus. These are all scams meant to get your money or information. Keep yourself informed and stay smart whenever you’re dealing with unsolicited calls or emails. With a bit of caution, you can protect yourself and your family.


[Edit]Identifying Common COVID-19 Scams

  1. Reject any offers for COVID-19 cures. Some scammers might call or email you offering products like these for a high price. Hang up or don’t reply to these solicitations. As of now, there are no cures for COVID-19, nor are there any supplements that can prevent or treat the virus. Anyone who offers to sell you one is trying to scam you.[1]
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    • A common product people are trying to sell are dietary or vitamin supplements that they claim kills the COVID-19 virus. Products like these are not effective and could be dangerous.
    • Even if the products seem like a good price or bargain, it’s still a scam. These products won’t work and you’ll be handing over your money.
    • Not only are there currently no cures for COVID-19, but it may also be illegal to make these kinds of health claims. The FTC and FDA are currently investigating several companies claiming to have coronavirus cures.[2]
    • The FDA has authorized an at-home testing kit that you can order online. You should only order this kit through the FDA or LabCorp, not a third party seller.[3]
  2. Refuse to give information to someone offering government checks. The US government recently approved relief checks for Americans to get through the crisis. Scammers are using this development to get people’s information and money. They may call or email you asking for your Social Security number, bank account numbers, or other financial information that they could use to access your accounts. They might also ask you for a payment to release the money. These are both scams, so don’t comply with anyone making these requests.[4]
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    • If the government does contact you about your payment, they will probably do it through the mail rather than with a phone call or email.
    • The government will never ask you for personal information or money if they contact you about your payment. Anyone who does this is not a government representative.[5]
  3. Be suspicious of unsolicited remote job offers. With so many people out of work and looking for jobs, scammers are also baiting people with promises of remote work opportunities. The scammer will often ask you to pay for software to get yourself set up for remote work, then disappear with your money. You might find this offer tempting, especially if you’re out of work, but unfamiliar people who contact you with job offers are probably not legitimate.[6]
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    • There are plenty of remote jobs available right now, but the business will probably not contact you. You’ll have to submit an application just like any other job. A reputable business will also not ask you to pay for any equipment up front.
    • Remote job scammers are also targeting businesses by offering to sell or set up software that will let employees work from home. If you’re a business owner, investigate anyone that contacts you very carefully before agreeing to work with them. If you can’t find any reliable information about the business, don’t work with them.
  4. Research any charities before you donate to them. Unfortunately, some scammers are taking advantage of people’s generosity and setting up fake charities to take people’s money. Be extremely cautious if anyone approaches you looking for charitable donations. Don’t rush into any decisions. Research the organization they claim to represent first and make sure it’s legitimate. If this is a reputable organization, then feel free to donate if you want to.[7]
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  5. Avoid ordering overpriced supplies from online sellers. With cleaning and medical supplies running out in stores across the country, some scammers are taking advantage of the situation by offering in-demand products online. These products are usually overpriced, and even worse, the offers could be entirely fake. Try to buy in-store if you can, which guarantees you’ll get your supplies. Otherwise, only buy from reputable online sellers.[8]
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    • If you do need supplies, try to order them directly from retailers or manufacturers. Avoid third-party sites like eBay, where scammers might be listing fake products.
    • If you do work with a third-party seller, investigate them first. Research the company or person online and use keywords like “scam” afterward to see if anything comes up. If all seem legitimate, then pay with a credit card and keep a record of the transaction. If there are any problems, you can cancel the charge.
  6. Check the domain registration information of a website selling in-demand supplies. Some scammers are setting up fake websites offering supplies like hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, masks, and toilet paper. If you come across a suspicious site offering supplies, you can check its legitimacy by looking up the date the site was registered, and the organization that registered it using any WhoIs service. Signs a website is a scam are that it was registered recently, and uses private registration, which masks the true owner of the site.
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    • You can also similarly check for publication date, which can be a clue to whether a site is legitimate. Right-click on the page and click "View page source" to see the source code. Then use the ctrl + F function and type in "Published." This brings you to the date the page was created. If the page was created during the COVID-19 outbreak, then it's probably a scam.[9]
    • These scammers might lure you in with unexpectedly low prices or sales. This is part of the scam to attract people to the site.
    • Whether or not a page's publication date is suspicious depends on when COVID-19 hit your area. Generally, any websites published or registered in 2020 could be suspicious, because that's when the virus really entered the news.

[Edit]Protecting Your Information

  1. Hang up immediately on robocalls. Robocalls are always a common scam, but they’re being used to scare people during the COVID-19 outbreak as well. Almost all robocalls, which only play a recording rather than an actual person, are not legitimate or important. At best they’re spam, and at worst they’re phishing attempts to get your personal information. If you do receive a robocall, simply hang up without saying anything or pressing any buttons to keep yourself safe.[10]
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    • Some robocalls can record your voice or keypad presses. That’s why it’s best to simply hang up without doing anything else.
    • The government does not contact you with robocalls unless the message is purely information. They will never use a robocalls asking for money or information.[11]
    • If you receive a lot of robocalls, you can put yourself on the National Do Not Call Registry here:
  2. Decline to provide personal information during suspicious phone calls. Scammers might also call you directly rather than using a robocall. These can be a little harder to spot because scammers are good at making themselves seem legitimate. Whether or not you spot the scam, never give personal information over the phone if someone calls you. If the person is insistent, simply hang up on them without further explanation.[12]
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    • Scammers might call you directly for all kinds of reasons. They might be offering COVID-19 supplies, jobs, security software, or claiming to be government officials with checks to give out. None of these offers are legitimate.
    • If you get a call from someone claiming to represent your bank or another institution you do business with, be cautious. Don’t give them any information. End the call and contact the bank’s customer service number directly. They’ll be able to help you if the call was legitimate.
    • It might feel rude to hang up on someone, but this person is a scammer. They’re relying on your manners to keep you on the phone so they can get more information.
  3. Delete suspicious emails before you open them. Some phishing emails can start recording your information as soon as you open them. If you receive any emails from business or people you don’t recognize, it’s best to just delete them. This is the safest option.[13]
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    • These emails will probably offer the same types of things that phone calls do. For instance, the subject line might say “COVID-19 CURE!!” There is no COVID-19 cure, so this is definitely not legitimate.
    • Don’t panic if you do open an unfamiliar email. Just delete it once you realize it’s not legitimate.
  4. Avoid clicking links or attachments in emails you don’t recognize. If you do open an email to investigate it further, be careful about where you click. Many phishing emails include links or attachments that can record your information or download a virus when you click. You’ll be safe as long as you don’t click anything, so just read the email and delete it afterward.[14]
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    • Usually, it’s good to open an email if the subject line isn’t immediately suspicious. An email from a nonprofit with “Coronavirus Update” isn’t immediately suspicious, but if you open the email and it’s trying to sell you remote working software, then it’s probably a scam. Delete it without clicking any links.
    • Phishing emails often contain some typos or grammar mistakes. Keep an eye out for issues like these.
  5. Investigate the address and images from supposedly reputable emails. Some phishing emails are very good copies of legitimate emails, which can make spotting them difficult. Someone might know that you’re a customer at a certain bank and send you an email claiming to be from that bank. Be very careful and check the email address that sent you the email. If it’s a different address from the one you normally see, then this is a scam.[15]
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    • Sometimes the suspicious email addresses are easy to spot. For instance, is clearly a fake email address. But sometimes, only a letter or number is off. Read the address carefully to catch this discrepancy.
    • The images on phishing emails are sometimes a little cloudier than on an official communication. This is because scammers copy and paste the images into their emails. Try comparing the images to an email that you know is legitimate.
    • If you’re ever in doubt, the best policy is to contact the organization’s customer service line to check if an email was legitimate.
  6. Keep your antivirus software up-to-date. In the event you do click on any suspicious links, your computer’s antivirus software can still find and eliminate any threats. As long as you keep it current and download all the latest updates, your computer can still protect itself from breaches.[16]
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    • It’s a good idea to run full virus scans every few weeks even if you don’t click anything suspicious. You can do this manually or set your software to run on a set schedule.

[Edit]Investigating Claims and Information

  1. Monitor the US government’s website on COVID-19 for the latest scams. Scammers are always changing their methods, which is how they stay ahead of the game. The US government is currently tracking scams related to the coronavirus and how to avoid them. Check government’s COVID-19 webpage regularly for any new updates or scams you should be aware of.[17]
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  2. Get your information from verified and reputable sources. Many scammers prey upon people who don’t have the most accurate information available. Keep yourself informed by reading news from verified and reputable sources. This way, you’ll be able to spot scams and stop scammers.[18]
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    • For example, if you regularly read the CDC website, you would know that there is not COVD-19 cure and would be able to spot a scam claiming that a supplement kills the virus.
    • Reliable organizations for COVID-19 news are US federal and state government websites, the CDC, the World Health Organization, and medical groups like Mayo Clinic. Use these sources for your information.
  3. Fact-check stories and information before you share it. A lot of unreliable information spreads online because people share it on social media. This amplifies its effects. If you come across news or information on social media, fact-check it with a reputable source like the CDC. If you can’t verify news, then don’t share it.[19]
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    • Feel free to share news that you can confirm. It’s good to spread quality information for people who need it.
    • You could help combat the fake news problem by only sharing verified and reputable sources.



  • Many scammers ask for payments in cash, gift cards, or wire transfers. Legitimate charities or businesses won’t try to force you into using these payment methods.[20]


  • If you have any doubts about a product, offer, or charity, don’t give up any money. Even if something feels legitimate but you’re uncomfortable, be safe and turn it down.


[Edit]Quick Summary