COVID-19 Scams Are Surging: Know What They Are and How to Avoid Them

Have you seen advertisements like this lately? 

“Avoid a tragedy and act now to protect your loved ones. Buy in bulk and save with volume discount!”

If this unnerving statement is from an unknown website, don’t click the link.

Today, we’d like to address the flood of scams we’re seeing during COVID-19.

These masks, ordered during the pandemic, arrived paper-thin.

This mask arrived as a spandex cut-out.

Reviewers ordered these items from the same company, both falsely advertised as N95s. The website displayed detailed images, N95 descriptions, as well as perfect five-star reviews.

During these uncertain times, many of us are reaching out for the necessary supplies to look out for health and our loved ones.

However, companies are capitalizing on the consumer frenzy and panic, creating uncertified and poor quality products to profit from high demand. Here are the most common and major tactics we’re seeing a growing amount of businesses use.

COVID-19 Scammer Tactics

Advertisements, Forums, & Social Media

Businesses and individuals are infiltrating forums like Craigslist, and social media such as Facebook, to heavily advertise coronavirus protection items through posts and advertisements. Unfortunately, products like an “antiviral” surgical mask is a product promise no company can keep. Be aware of false advertising and only purchase from reputable companies.

Phone, Text, & Email Fraud

Scammers may also target you via phone calls, texts, and email. Ignore unknown numbers and bots. Clicking on an email scam like a fake message from the World Health Organization could end up downloading a computer virus, giving cybercriminals access to all your information. Be on the lookout for suspicious and fraudulent emails; do not click unverified links before doing your research. The FTC has reported phone and e-mail as some of the most common ways scammers get into contact with consumers.

False manufacturing claims

Overseas companies are making explicit claims that their products are not manufactured and shipped from China. Our reviewers are reporting otherwise, receiving faulty items not recommended by the CDC with China stamped labels. Only order from CDC trusted retailers or reputable companies.

Fly-by-night websites

Companies are profiting as much as possible selling a wide range of coronavirus-related products, only to disappear as quickly as they came. The chances of receiving your products as promised are slim.

Do not buy medical products from any unknown and unauthorized sites. If you have any doubt, with red flags such as improper use of grammar/spelling, do your research: Check privacy seals and certifications, as well as online reviews.

COVID-19 Scams

“Anti-coronavirus” products

The first thing to note is that whenever there are difficult times, scammers take full advantage. Companies are suddenly promoting products on their website as “anti-coronavirus.” Unauthorized companies are selling N95s, air purifiers, protective equipment, and other COVID-19 gear, with the false promise of keeping you safe. You’ll either receive a faulty item or nothing at all. As for refund policies? Much of those are going straight out the window.

Before buying from any site claiming to sell coronavirus protective gear, please check CDC recommendations. We explain the recommendations on what to get in our guide. We’ll also be flagging reported sites on respective reviews pages to stop more consumers from losing money during this difficult time.

Health Products

According to the FTC report, over 5,000 people have reported COVID-19 health scams related to diet products, centers, and plans. While some vitamins and supplements have shown potential benefits in COVID-19 research trials, many unauthorized companies are falsely claiming their products can treat coronavirus. Learn more with our guide to the latest research on vitamins and supplements during COVID-19 and how to avoid false claims.

Unauthorized Test Kits 

At-home testing kits have yet to be approved by the FDA. However, companies like Yikon Genomics are already pushing their own agenda, selling $39 test kits while boasting FDA approval.

How far people go to capitalize on the situation doesn’t stop there. In Louisville, Kentucky, two pop-up tents of workers dressed in hazmat suits offered coronavirus tests for $240 each. They scammed more than 100 people before fleeing.

The bottom line is to avoid all tests from unauthorized companies. Contact your medical provider directly if you think you might be infected.

COVID-19 Vaccines

Watch out for emails, calls, and advertisements promoting a COVID-19 vaccine. Decline any prompts for your information. These companies are looking to con you of your money, as a completed COVID-19 vaccine does not yet exist.

COVID-19 Donations

The Washington Post has a great list of ways to help and donate online. However, fake charity websites sprout up in greater number and many different forms during a crisis, so if you don’t recognize the fund, always:

  1. Research the campaign manager
  2. Get in touch with the fund organizer
  3. Use a credit card or PayPal when making a donation
  4. Decline wire transfer donations

Follow these tips to avoid donation scams and make sure to protect your information.

Travel

Discounted flights, travel insurance, and winning a free vacation are among the most common ways reviewers are conned. When the time comes, you may be left stranded and without your money. Any advertisements from an unknown company should be a red flag. Before spending lots of money on a travel site, no matter how discounted the prices are, check online reviews to make sure you’re buying from a reputable site.

Act Online With Caution

This list covers the main scams occurring during this crisis. Reading reviews and acting with caution when receiving calls, reading emails, texts, online shopping, and donating will keep your money and information safe. Paying online with a credit card or using Paypal will provide you some buyer protection if you are scammed, and writing a review will be the red flag others need to avoid the business.

We will continue to stress the importance of having a strong awareness of these COVID-19 scams, to allow every community to ward off online attacks and focus on health and loved ones.

If you’ve avoided any of these scams recently, let us know in the comments below!