COVID-19 Scams
Photo: Gustavo Fring/Pexels

While most of us are doing our best to support each other during the pandemic, cybercriminals see 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 COVID-19 scams below to avoid falling for their tricks. 

1. Robocall and Robotech loan offers

Many reputable non-profits provide 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 must ignore and delete them because they are 100% scams.

The keyword here is "unsolicited." This will be easy to spot if you have yet to apply for loans. If you are applying for loans, you must keep careful records and ensure you only respond to calls or messages from the organizations you've used. If you need more clarification, call the company back on the number 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 has developed a product that promises to cure, prevent, or test for COVID-19. No matter how classy their website is or how much pseudoscience they use to "support" 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 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, contact the Fair Trade Commission (FTC) or equivalent in your country. 

4. Free gifts

These usually come via text; the gift 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 tough 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 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 and trick you into disclosing personal information.

When you receive an email like this, the first thing to look for 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.