How to avoid Coronavirus scam websites, calls, and texts

Posted on Apr 28, 2020 by Caleb Chen
coronavirus covid-19 scam alert

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought out the best – and worst – in human society. While people around the world have come together in solidarity to try and flatten the curve and front line essential workers are still keeping everyone fed, the scammers of the world have taken this as a golden opportunity to try and steal from people just when they need their money the most.

The FBI issued a PSA warning about the situation earlier this year:

“Scammers are leveraging the COVID-19 pandemic to steal your money, your personal information, or both. Don’t let them. Protect yourself and do your research before clicking on links purporting to provide information on the virus; donating to a charity online or through social media; contributing to a crowdfunding campaign; purchasing products online; or giving up your personal information in order to receive money or other benefits.”

Earlier this month, a survey by Next Caller found that 32% of a thousand surveyed Americans believe that they’ve been the target of a COVID-19 themed scam. That number is only rising and the time to be vigilant is now.

How do coronavirus scams work?

A lot of COVID-19 related scams are aimed at stealing your stimulus check or getting you to buy fake tests or preventative measures. The FTC has come up with this short list of follows to avoid being scammed out of your stimulus check or money as related to COVID-19.

  • Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations
  • Be wary of ads for test kits
  • Hang up on robocalls
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations.

While many of these pieces of advice may seem like common sense and are usable to help avoid non-COVID-19 scams as well, the current scam landscape has been very exacerbated by the pandemic. The lack of comprehensive information and sometimes conflicting and exaggerated news has made it hard for the average person to know what’s real or not. Just as a quick reminder: Vaccines don’t exist yet, the government will never call or email you about your stimulus check, test kits that aren’t administered by your doctor are unlikely to be accurate, and anything claiming to be a sure fire cure for COVID-19 is definitely snake oil. In summary, these COVID-19 scammers are after your money and it’s up to you to avoid them.

What can you do to protect yourself from coronavirus scams?

Be wary of random calls. Remember that the FTC advises that you hang up on robocallers. Don’t bother telling them to put you on their no call list – scammers don’t clearly respect that part of the law. If someone is calling you with a recorded message – chances are it isn’t good. That isn’t to say that real live scammers won’t try to call you either, though. If you receive a call and want to verify – you can always hang up and find the phone number of the agency that supposedly contacted you and reach out there.

Just because a site has the HTTPS lock signifying that your connection to the site is encrypted, doesn’t mean that the site isn’t trying to scam you. If in doubt about a website offering information, you can always check if it’s a known scam website using a Scam Website Checker. The COVID-19 Scam Website Checker will check the queried website against peoples’ reports of scam websites and let you know if the site you’re on has been reported by others before. Nobody likes scams, besides the scammers, and there are just as many people – or more – that want to help you avoid scams as there are trying to scam you.

The best way to avoid scams is to use common sense. In this day and age, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Staying safe in these trying times means more than just social distancing, it means being aware in all aspects of your life – including on the phone and online.