Watch out for fraudulent and unapproved COVID-19 antibodies tests or vaccines
Tips to help you protect yourself from robocall and text scams, including coronavirus scams:
- Always be wary of any unsolicited offers that require you to provide your insurance or doctor’s information.
- Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
- Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
- Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
- Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering.
- Do not click any links in a text message from an unknown sender.
Be aware of the following potential indicators of fraudulent activity:
- Advertisements or offers for early access to a vaccine upon payment of a deposit or fee.
- Requests asking you to pay out of pocket to obtain the vaccine or to put your name on a COVID-19 vaccine waiting list
- Offers to undergo additional medical testing or procedures when obtaining a vaccine
- Marketers offering to sell and/or ship doses of a vaccine, domestically or internationally, in exchange for payment of a deposit or fee
- Unsolicited emails, telephone calls, or personal contact from someone claiming to be from a medical office, insurance company, or COVID-19 vaccine center requesting personal and/or medical information to determine recipients’ eligibility to participate in clinical vaccine trials or obtain the vaccine
- Claims of FDA approval for a vaccine that cannot be verified
- Advertisements for vaccines through social media platforms, email, telephone calls, online, or from unsolicited/unknown sources
- Individuals contacting you in person, by phone, or by email to tell you the government or government officials require you to receive a COVID-19 vaccine
Tips to avoid COVID-19 vaccine-related fraud:
- Consult your state’s health department website for up-to-date information about authorized vaccine distribution channels and only obtaining a vaccine through such channels.
- Check the FDA’s website (fda.gov) for current information about vaccine emergency use authorizations.
- Consult your primary care physician before undergoing any vaccination.
- Don’t share your personal or health information with anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals.
- Check your medical bills and insurance explanation of benefits (EOBs) for any suspicious claims and promptly reporting any errors to your health insurance provider.
- Follow guidance and recommendations from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other trusted medical professionals.
Vaccine Card Safety
- Don't share your COVID vaccine card on social media - Your vaccine card has sensitive personal information that could include your full name, date of birth, where you got your vaccine, and the dates you got it. By posting images of this document on social media, you’re sharing sensitive data that may fall in bad hands putting you at risk of identity theft.
- Be aware of individuals selling fake COVID-19 vaccination record cards or encouraging others to print fake cards at home.
If you’ve already shared this information on a social network
- delete the picture
- check your privacy settings
- make sure you know the people who are following you. If you want to limit access to a small group of family and friends, make sure the settings are configured to avoid sharing information with strangers.
Contact Tracing scams
Contact tracing is a public health technique used to identify individuals who have had close contact with someone known to have the virus. Because of the urgent need to notify those that may have been exposed, tracers will often use a variety of methods to contact the individual, including calls and text messages. Many states are using text messages for their initial contact tracing outreach. After the initial text, most legitimate contact tracing work is done over the phone. Legitimate tracers will need to confirm your name, address, and birthday. This is information that they already have – so you won’t need to provide it to them.
What scammers are doing: Scammers are impersonating contact tracers in texts and calls, claiming the contacted party has been exposed to COVID-19 and needs to act quickly. Scam text messages often include links to websites that request Social Security numbers or insurance information. Some even attempt to collect bogus payments for testing. Clicking these links can also download malware onto a mobile device, allowing scammers to access your personal data. In addition to bogus texts, identity thieves are also using robocalls and voicemail call-back tracing scams to steal a target’s money, personal details, and insurance information.
Be aware, legitimate contact tracers will not ask for:
- Insurance information
- Bank account information
- Credit card numbers
- Social Security numbers
- Other types of payment info
If a caller asks for any of the above, hang up and never click on a link in a text message from an unknown sender.
Avoid other Coronavirus scams:
- Covid-19 funeral assistance scam. The Federal Emergency Management Agency’s COVID-19 Funeral Assistance program is a legitimate government relief program designed to help survivors cover the funeral costs for someone who has died as a result of COVID-19. Scammers have profited by posing as FEMA workers and calling, texting or emailing survivors to register them for assistance. Scammers take advantage of program requirements and exploit the strong emotions often associated with the loss of a loved one.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). If the email is purportedly from an official organization, do your due diligence and check it by going to their official website or contact them through their official channels to verify the veracity of the email.
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. Scammers are trying to get you to buy products that aren’t proven to treat or prevent the Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores. At this time, there also are no FDA-authorized home test kits for the Coronavirus. Visit the FDA to learn more.
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device and make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don't do it.
- Be alert to "investment opportunities" that claim prevention, detection, or cure Coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.
Look out for suspicious offers and never order anything from an unverified vendor. If the offer or discount looks too good to be true, it usually is. Always be vigilant and find and evaluate reviews about the vendor.
Masks and other high-demand products
Watch out for scams that involve products that are in high demand, but whose availability is severely limited. A fraudulent website can be offering scarce or discounted products like face masks since face masks are scarce. By purchasing the mask, you could be falling for a phishing attack and exposing your sensitive personal and payment data to the fraudsters.
Fake testing kits
Fraudsters are offering either fake or non-existent coronavirus testing kits under the guise of medical officials with the necessary certification for their products. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is cracking down heavily on these sellers and has issued warnings that it has not authorized any tests that could be purchased by people to test themselves.
Malware & viruses
The World Health Organization (WHO) or national healthcare organizations make ideal targets for fraudsters to impersonate. An example of their tactics would be to contact you via email asserting that the attachment contains pertinent information to help protect you from the disease. The attachments may contain a Trojan virus designed to steal your personal data.
Late payments and urgent orders
- Scenerio 1: Companies are shifting to working from home while factories are either ramping up production or limiting their operations depending on the products they manufacture. Fraudsters are impersonating company representatives sending out urgent purchase orders for various materials. As some companies may be in desperate need to have at least some kind of revenue, the recipient may just click on the attached file without giving it further thought.
- Scenerio 2: Fraudsters send a business a proof of payment so that their supposed order gets taken care of. The attached file may contain a Trojan injector.
Protect yourself from Medicare scams
Scammers are offering COVID-19 tests to Medicare beneficiaries in exchange for personal details, including Medicare information. However, the services are unapproved and illegitimate. Fraudsters are targeting beneficiaries in a number of ways, including telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits.
These scammers use the coronavirus pandemic to benefit themselves, and beneficiaries face potential harms. The personal information collected can be used to fraudulently bill Federal health care programs and commit medical identity theft. If Medicare or Medicaid denies the claim for an unapproved test, the beneficiary could be responsible for the cost.
How to stay safe:
- Beneficiaries should be cautious of unsolicited requests for their Medicare or Medicaid numbers.
- Be suspicious of any unexpected calls or visitors offering COVID-19 tests or supplies. If your personal information is compromised, it may be used in other fraud schemes.
- Ignore offers or advertisements for COVID-19 testing or treatments on social media sites.
- A physician or other trusted healthcare provider should assess your condition and approve any requests for COVID-19 testing.
- If you suspect COVID-19 fraud, contact the Department of Justice at https://www.justice.gov/coronavirus/