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 in February, 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.

Fly-by-night companies

Companies are profiting as much as possible selling coronavirus protection items, 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 and spelling, do your research: Check privacy seals and certifications, as well as online reviews.

“Anti-coronavirus” products

Companies are suddenly promoting products on their website as “anti-coronavirus.” Scammers are selling products from N95s to immune system boosters to travel insurance. 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.

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.

Avoid all COVID-19 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.

Social media posts and advertisement scams

Businesses are infiltrating social media and heavily advertising coronavirus protection items through posts and advertisements. Unfortunately, an “antiviral” surgical mask is a product promise no company can keep. Be aware of false advertising and only purchase from reputable companies. For more information on buying masks, read our full coronavirus resource guide.

Text and Email Fraud

Scammers may also target you via text and email. 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.

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, along with China stamped labels. Only order from CDC trusted retailers or reputable companies.

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.

Act Online With Caution

This list covers the main scams occurring during this crisis. Acting with caution when 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!