COVID-19 Scams
Photo: Gustavo Fring/Pexels

While most of us are doing our best to support each other during the pandemic, cybercriminals are seeing these troubled times as a fantastic opportunity to take advantage of people. Fear, anxiety, and financial desperation can all cloud your judgment, making you an easy target for scam artists. Check out the list of COVID-19 scams below to ensure you don’t fall for their tricks. 

1. Robocall and robotext loan offers

There are plenty of reputable non-profits providing no interest money loans to help people during the pandemic. However, if you get unsolicited calls or text messages offering you fast, cheap money, you need to ignore and delete them because these are 100% scams.

The keyword here is “unsolicited.” If you haven’t applied for any loans, this will be easy to spot. If you are applying for loans, then you need to keep careful records and ensure you only respond to calls or messages from the organizations to which you’ve applied. If you’re uncertain, hang up and call the company back on the number listed on their official website. 

2. COVID-19 cures, prevention, and test kits

From silver solutions to homeopathic drugs, essential oils, and tinctures, every fake health guru and scam artist out there has developed a product that promises to cure, prevent, or test for COVID-19. No matter how classy their website or how much pseudoscience they have “supporting” their claims, these are nothing more than money-making schemes. Save your cash and focus on what you can do to improve your physical and mental health.

3. Fake health insurance

People under the age of 65 who are uninsured or underinsured are being targeted for fake health insurance calls. Do not give any personal details to a caller, even if they use pressure or scare tactics. Your best bet is to avoid saying anything and hang up. If you have questions or concerns, get in contact with the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) or equivalent in your country. 

4. Free gifts

These usually come via text, and the gift on offer can be anything from an iPhone to a Netflix subscription. The message always references coronavirus and may even be personalized with your name. Do not follow the links in these messages. It would be nice if people really were giving away all these gifts, but the sad truth is, they’re just after your personal information. 

5. Threats

These ones are especially difficult because they play on your fears. Threats usually come in the form of a phone call claiming you have broken quarantine restrictions and must pay a fine or face jail time. Rest assured, the police will not be phoning citizens to demand that fines be paid over the phone. Hang up and block the number.

6. Phishing

You may receive emails claiming to be from the CDC, WHO, or the government, inviting you to follow a link in order to apply for a stimulus package or provide information vital to stopping the spread of the virus. Known as “phishing scams,” these emails are designed to mimic trusted organizations in order to trick you into disclosing personal information.

The first thing to look for when you receive an email like this is the address it came from. Scammers will make their contact name look official, but the email address within the less than and greater than symbols will not be from one of the organization’s accounts.

The best way to protect yourself from these and other scams is to avoid making decisions while in a state of fear or excitement. This gives you time to assess whether you’re dealing with a scammer or not.