Since the beginning of the pandemic, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged nearly 339,000 consumer complaints relating to COVID-19, 69% of them involving identity theft or fraud. Victims have reported a median loss of $307 with a total nearing $350 million. With the vaccine rollout and stimulus payments on their way, here are some updated COVID-19 scams to look out for:
1. Fake Cures
Since the start of the pandemic, scammers have been flooding customers with phony remedies. The Department of Health and Human Services says consumers should be on the lookout for these signs of vaccine scams:
· Requests for you to pay out of pocket to receive a shot or get on a vaccine waiting list
· Offers to sell or ship doses of COVID-19 vaccines
· Ads for vaccines on websites, social media posts, phone calls or emails
2. High Demand Products
Some scammers claim to be selling high demand products like test kits, masks, and household cleaners. This is often through robocalls, texts, or social media ads. Remember, fraudsters are very crafty! If you feel unsure about anything, trust your gut.
3. Provider scams
Scammers will impersonate hospital staff and doctors and contact the victim claiming to have treated a relative for COVID-19 and request payment for treatment. Before handing over any information, do your due diligence and check with that relative or friend. Always be on high alert if ANYONE is asking for payment information over the phone.
4. Financial Scams
With economic anxiety at an all-time high, scammers are soliciting fees or personal information for “speedy relief payments”. Watch out for calls, texts, or emails from fake government agencies asking you to click a link, pay a fee, or confirm personal data, like your social security number, to receive your stimulus check.
Here are some tips to avoid becoming a victim:
- Ignore phone calls and text messages from unfamiliar numbers. Ignore suspicious emails and do not click any links or provide personal information.
- Most ads will be coming from unofficial sources so DO NOT CLICK THEM. Official public health sources include the WHO, FDA and CDC. When in doubt, don’t click it!
- Do not attempt to get a vaccine shipped to your home. You can’t receive a COVID-19 vaccine anywhere other than a medical facility or pharmacy.
- Ignore requests to pay a fee to get on a COVID-19 vaccine waitlist. You should not have to pay a fee to be on the list.
- If you’re being asked to pay for the vaccine ahead of time, don’t.