Many are tired of talking about COVID-19, but the scammers are still out in full swing preying on the uncertain and vulnerable. Here are reminders of the top COVID-19 related scams that consumers should continue to stay on the lookout for.
Phoney Cures and Fake Masks
BBBScamTracker has received numerous reports of people receiving emails and messages claiming that, for a price, they can buy products the government is supposedly keeping secret – ways to prevent or cure coronavirus. Medical experts are working hard to find a coronavirus vaccine, but none currently exists.
Scammers know a large amount of people are working from home until the end of the year or even indefinitely. They may claim to be from an official department of the employer to offer IT support or claim the company issued computer has a virus. They may use scare tactics, stating the computer will crash if you don’t act immediately, all in an attempt to gain access to your computer remotely, or to your personal or company’s information.
Another common phishing scam is fake emails, text messages, and social media messages claiming the government needs you to take an “online coronavirus test” or they need you to verify personal information to receive a free test by clicking a link they provide. No such test currently exists but if you click on the link, scammers can download malware onto your computer and gain access to your sensitive personal information.
Many people are still looking for work online because of COVID-19. Fraudsters find ways to take advantage of this by posting phony work-from-home jobs promising remote work with good pay and no interview required. These cons often use real company names and can be very convincing.
After you are “hired,” the company may charge you upfront for “training.” You may need to provide your personal and banking information to run a credit check or set up direct deposit. You may be “accidentally” overpaid with a fake check and asked to deposit the check and wire back the difference. Or, you are asked to buy expensive equipment and supplies to work at home.
To many, Amazon Prime Day, October 13th & 14th, is the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season. Since the beginning of the pandemic, online shopping has dramatically increased and will continue to rise as consumers begin their holiday shopping. Though Prime Day 2020 has passed, advertisements for great online deals will continue to tempt consumers with great prices and free shipping offers.
Many advertisements broadcast enticing gadgets, cute merchandise or items with subliminal "I gotta have it" messages, making it irresistible to click and check it out. Unfortunately, some of these companies aren't quite what they seem. Some consumers find that once the order is placed, the company doesn't send the product, or it is not of good quality. How can you be certain the websites where you shop are legitimate?
Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website. Make sure you are shopping with a legitimate site by visiting the website yourself. If the site is missing contact or address information, that is a red flag. Check out retailers at BBB.org before you shop.
Be a savvy shopper. Be sure to take your time and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy; although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees. After you place the order, keep and review documentation and receipts. Some items cannot be returned; know before you buy.
Don’t pay via wire transfer. Watch out for requirements to pay via wire transfer (Western Union, MoneyGram), prepaid debit or giftcard, or electronic wallet (CashApp, Venmo, Paypal), stop the transaction. Those are always a red flag of fraud. Always shop with a credit card as it provides additional protections; it’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve.
Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with
“https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.
Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs, or your purchase may sign you up for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
If you’re suspicious of a scam or have fallen victim, always report it! Report your scam to