Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding coronavirus. There are ways you can avoid scams and protect your money and personal information.
CORONAVIRUS ONLINE SCAMS
Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding coronavirus. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information. They are forging emails mentioning the outbreak that appear to be from business partners or public institutions to try to get users to open the messages, unleashing malware.
How do I know if a coronavirus email is a scam?
Follow normal online tips to protect your money and identity. Most importantly, do not click on links or respond to an e-mail that you do not recognize.
The emails and posts may be promoting awareness and prevention tips or fake information about cases in your neighborhood. They also may be asking you to donate to victims, offering advice on unproven treatments, or contain malicious email attachments.
SCAMS ABOUT CORONAVIRUS VACCINES AND CURES
There is currently no vaccine and no specific treatment to prevent or treat a coronavirus infection. Scientists are working on these issues. However, scammers are taking advantage of fear and misinformation to take people’s money.
Can I pay to be on a list to be the first to receive a vaccine?
No. Do not give money to anyone that claims a payment will put you on a list to fast-track receiving a vaccination.
There are no lists being generated for people to receive vaccinations. When a vaccine does become available, your medical provider will notify you.
Should I buy a product that claims to cure coronavirus?
Be wary of anyone touting any type of medical miracle or holistic cures. Using questionable and untested products will cost you money and potentially be dangerous to your health.
Think twice before spending money on a product that claims to cure a wide range of diseases.
Be suspect of products that provide only patient testimonials as evidence of their effectiveness. Patient testimonials can be made up and embellished, and they are no substitute for true scientific evidence.
Before using any product that makes these claims, consult with your doctor or health care professional to ensure it is safe to use.
How can I buy a kit to test myself at home for coronavirus?
Home testing kits for some common medical issues are available at many retailers. However, there are no home test kits for coronavirus.
Be wary of the unapproved or fraudulent test kits being marketed on the Internet, in magazines, and elsewhere.
Patients who suspect they may have the virus or that they may be infected should consult with a physician on the best way to provide a specimen for testing.
Should I invest in a company that’s working on a coronavirus vaccine or cure?
Be alert to “investment opportunities” or offers to crowd fund for a cure. If you see one of these promotions, ignore it.
The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus. The promotions claim that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.
Keep in mind that contributing to a crowd fund will not guarantee any results and contributions to a crowd fund may not be refundable.
Charities help communities in their time of need and representatives may ask for donations from people to help fund their activities. However, scammers may try to take advantage of the kindness of others for their own benefit.
How do I know my donation is going to a real charity?
In California, all legitimate charities and professional fundraisers must be registered with the California State Attorney General, Charitable Trusts Section. This office regulates charitable organizations to ensure donations contributed by Californians are not stolen or misused through fraud.
To ensure the charity you are donating to is legitimate, use the Attorney General’s Registry Verification Search here. This tool allows you to search the files of the Registry of Charitable Trusts.
Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowd funding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. Do not pay donations with gift cards or by wiring money.
MORE INFO ON SCAMS
Stay up to date on the latest scams and precautions you and your family should take. Sign up for the Los Angeles County Consumer and Business Affairs' consumer alerts. If you come across any suspicious claims, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
County of Los Angeles Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Last change: March 10, 2020