As the world grapples with the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are taking advantage of this unprecedented time of fear and uncertainty with a new crop of coronavirus-related scams, The illicit conduct has bad actors preying on people's fears while anxiety over COVID-19 is high.
Con men are preying on people looking for COVID tests. Some scammers are trying to make a quick buck are using robocalls to tout bogus cures and unauthorized fake home test kits — they are also using text messaging.
Others are setting up phony testing sites to steal your personal information. The sites may look real with tents and hazmat suits – but then you don’t get the test results, you’re charged for a “free” test, or they use your information for identity theft.
Here are some tips to help you protect yourself and avoid these scams:
COVID-19 testing scams
What to do: To avoid COVID testing scams:
- Do not give your Social Security number or passport number in order to get a COVID test.
- Find legitimate testing sites. Check with the WV DHHR website https://dhhr.wv.gov/bph/Pages/default.aspx or your local health department or your doctor.
- Look for FDA-authorized test kits. Check the FDA’s list of authorized antigen tests and PCR tests before buying. You can now get four free COVID test kits per household at COVIDtests.gov . Also, insurance companies are required to cover the costs of up to eight over-the-counter COVID tests per month for each covered person.
- When shopping online for test kits, pay by credit card. If you’re charged for an order you never got, or for a product that's not as advertised, you can contact your credit card company and dispute the charge.
COVID-19 vaccine scams
As con men figure out new ways to scam people regarding COVID-19 vaccines and boosters, it is important to stay vigilant. Beware of scams offering early access to boosters or vaccines for a fee. Don't share your personal or financial information if someone calls, texts, or emails you promising to get you a booster or vaccine for a fee. Remember that Medicare covers the cost of the COVID-19 vaccine. COVID-19 vaccines are also free to others throughout the country, although providers may charge an administration fee.
What to do: For the latest vaccine updates, check with the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention (CDC) .
Scams targeting Social Security benefits
While local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, SSA will not suspend or decrease Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers may mislead people into believing they need to provide personal information or pay by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or by mailing cash to maintain regular benefit payments during this period. Any communication that says SSA will suspend or decrease your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.
What to do: Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov .
COVID-19 government imposter scams
Many of us are paying close attention to the guidance from federal, state, and local governments during this COVID-19 health emergency. Unfortunately, scammers are also paying attention. Some are even pretending to be affiliated with the government–just to scam you out of money.
What to do:
- Know that the government will never call, text, or contact you on social media saying you owe money. If you get a message from someone claiming to be from a government agency through social media, it’s a scam. Report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint .
- Visit government websites directly for trustworthy information. Don’t click on links in an email or text message. Scammers often send fake links to websites that look like they’re from the government. Instead of clicking on links in messages, open up a new window and search for the name of the government agency. And visit coronavirus.gov for the most up-to-date information on the pandemic.
- Say "NO" to anyone claiming to be from a government agency asking for cash, gift cards, wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or personal and financial information, whether they contact you by phone, texts email, or by showing up in person. Don’t share your Social Security, Medicare ID, driver’s license, bank account, or credit card numbers.