3 COVID-19 Scams You Should Know About Now

by Kroger Health Staff

Last Updated: April 27, 2020

The pandemic has many Americans on edge, and scammers are attempting to prey on our anxiety and stress. While there are not yet vaccines or drugs to treat or prevent COVID-19, emails and calls touting bogus cures and worthless treatments are disheartening and abundant. Here are some of the most common scams you and your family should know about:
  1. Medicare Fraud.
    The elderly are being targeted with robocalls selling COVID-19 vaccines, tests, and treatments. Scammers ask for personal information including Social Security and Medicare numbers to either steal the victim’s identity and/or make false claims against Medicare. To prevent this scam, instruct elderly family members not to pick up the phone if it’s from an unknown number. It is best to just hang up and not speak to the caller. However, not all Medicare scams are over the phone. Some criminals have even entered senior housing and assisted living facilities to steal personal information directly from the elderly.
  2. False Information.
    You receive an email that appears to be from the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but it is really a phishing email from scammers posing as one of these organizations. In this scam, an email guides you to a legitimate-looking site that requires a login to view supposed information from the United Nations, WHO or CDC. Clicking on these emails could enable the scammers to steal your identity. In mid-March, one of the first COVID-19 phishing scams was an email that appeared to be from the WHO, offering an attachment with ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus.
  3. Malicious Websites.
    These appear to show the latest COVID-19 information, but instead, scammers use them to access and lock the victim’s computer files until the victim pays thieves to release them. In March, U.S. Attorney General William Barr alerted the public about this COVID-19 ransomware threat via a press release. To avoid malicious websites, watch for typos in the messages. And avoid clicking links or downloading files unless you are certain they are from a safe source.

Other COVID-19 frauds include scams selling in-demand cleaning supplies, such as disinfecting wipes or scarce personal protective equipment, such as masks. Some scammers are claiming to offer travel insurance to cover losses from coronavirus-related trip cancellations. However, most standard travel insurance policies don’t offer coverage for pandemics. Another scam involves calls, texts, and emails from a “government agency” promising to get your relief money for you, and others try to collect money for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

If you suspect fraud, you are encouraged to report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or e-mail the NCDF at disaster@leo.gov.

To keep up-to-date on the latest scams, you can sign up for updates from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at Consumer Alerts.

Disclaimer: The information in this story is accurate as of its publication. However, the situation surrounding COVID-19 is ever-evolving. We are working to keep our stories up-to-date as changes occur, but we also encourage everyone to check news and recommendations from the CDC, WHO, and their local authorities.