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COVID-19 Scams: Texts, Emails Promise Updates On Latest Cases

The novel strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19).
The novel strain of the coronavirus (COVID-19). Photo Credit: Pixabay

The global outbreak of the novel strain of coronavirus (COVID-19) has led to a rash of new scams from fear-mongering fraudsters, officials warned.

Scams ranging from texts and emails from scammers posing as health officials and other professionals to others brewing up phony vaccines and cleaning cocktails have become more prevalent in the weeks since the COVID-19 outbreak, the United States Attorney General’s Office announced.

According to the FTC, to help weed out scammers, the organization has issued a joint statement with the FDA to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent the Coronavirus. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.

Other scams include online sellers claiming they have in-demand products for exorbitant prices, fake charities, fake emails, texts and emails that are used to obtain personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, online logins, and passwords.

According to the FTC, some tips to help keep the scammers at bay:

  • 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;
  • 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;
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention 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 and the World Health Organization;
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores;
  • 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.

New York Attorney General Letitia James warned about scams this week as additional reports surfaced that robbers may have also posed as the Red Cross and other healthcare officials.

"We must remain vigilant against any scam designed to exploit people's anxiety, especially during a global pandemic," she said. "New Yorkers should know that no one from the CDC, or any other health agency, is knocking on doors to provide tests for the coronavirus for a fee.

"My office will hold accountable those that violate it. I encourage anyone who believes they are the victim of a scam or predatory action to contact my office and file a complaint."

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