Whenever there’s a tragedy, unfortunately there are people who want to take advantage of it for their own gain. Various agencies have warned people of the scams that they have been hearing about including fake cures, fake treatments, email phishing scams, robocalls for non-existent testing, and fake charities.
Fear of getting ill or because of the turbulent economy make people susceptible to shysters looking to profit off uncertainty and anxiety.
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently put out the below warnings to the public:
- There currently are no vaccines, pills, or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure coronavirus — online or in stores. Ignore online, phone, or in-person offers for vaccinations.
- At this time, there are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the coronavirus. Ignore online, offers for vaccinations and home test kits.
- Do not respond to texts, emails, phone calls, or in-person offers about checks from the government. Details are still being worked out. Those guaranteeing money now are a scammer.
- Be careful and watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. Be sure to fact check information before you pass along any information.
- Do not click on any links from unknown sources. They can lead to viruses downloaded on your computer.
As well, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Chairman Joe Simons issued a statement on its website about the agency’s efforts to protect consumers during the coronavirus pandemic.
The FTC’s staff is working hard with other enforcement authorities and stakeholders to stop scammers and other unfair and deceptive business practices during the pandemic, Chairman Simons stated.
“We will not tolerate businesses seeking to take advantage of consumers’ concerns and fears regarding coronavirus disease, exigent circumstances, or financial distress,” Simons said.
Simons said that the FTC will remain flexible and reasonable in enforcing compliance requirements on companies that may hinder the provision of important goods and services to consumers, and will consider good faith efforts to provide needed goods and services in making enforcement decisions.
“The FTC is ready to assist businesses that may seek guidance about compliance obligations on consumer protection issues during this unprecedented time,” Simons said.
In addition, The Department of Justice (DOJ) warned people to keep their eyes open for criminals attempting to exploit COVID-19 worldwide through a variety of scams. The DOJ listed some of the reports they have been getting:
- Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
- Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
- Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
- Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
The DOJ said that criminals will likely continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home through a number of platforms. Go to:
- Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Report it to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
- If it's a cyber scam, submit your complaint through this website