A Complete List of Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams

As anxiety around coronavirus increases, more scammers are taking advantage.

While scams can happen any time, many companies are now preying on people’s fear about contracting COVID-19 and the financial uncertainty due to job and income loss caused by the virus, among others.

Here’s what you need to know to help protect yourself from scams related to the Coronavirus.

In this article:

List of all known Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams

Here’s a detailed list of scams related to COVID-19, which you can filter by the type of scam, how the scams are being sent and the form of security breach.

scam(s)

What scammers want

According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), common types of information scammers seek include:

  • Passwords
  • Social Security numbers
  • Account numbers
  • Other payment information

If scammers get that information, they could access your email, social, bank or other private accounts.

Another common thread among scammers? A desire to steal your money.

How to spot a scam and red flags to watch for

With so many scams already out there, and new ones constantly developing, it’s important to know some of the tell-tale signs so you can spot – and report – scams right off the bat.

While this isn’t an exhaustive list, here are 4 red flags that could indicate a scam.

  1. Someone’s trying to push you into an immediate action or decision.

    Scammers will usually try to push you into a quick decision. Don’t let anyone bully you or threaten you into giving them private information. If they try to push you to take action right now, it might be a scam.

    Instead, take time, ask around and do your research before making a decision.

  2. They want you to use payment methods that have little or no fraud protection.

    Before paying for anything, think about how you pay, since some payment methods have almost zero fraud protection.

    If someone requires you to pay up front, wire money, or pay by cash or gift card, it could be a scam. It’s very unlikely anyone could trace that money and get it back to you if something went wrong.

    On the other hand, credit cards have excellent fraud protection. While fraud protection on debit cards is more limited, it’s still available to a certain extent.

  3. You get a robocall

    Robocalls with recorded sales pitches are illegal, according to the FTC.

    The FTC also encourages you not to press 1 to speak to a person or be taken off their list, since that could lead to more calls.

    When in doubt, hang up or don’t answer in the first place.

  4. You get an email from someone you don’t know (or worse, one that mimics a person or brand you do know)

    If you get an email (or text) from someone you don’t know, or an email mimicking a person or brand you trust, this could be an example of phishing. According to the FTC, phishing is an attempt to trick you into giving away personal information.

    These messages will often ask you to:

    • Click on a link
    • Download an attachment
    • Or provide a link for you to “log in” to your account

    If you take any of these actions, you could end up with a malicious computer virus or stolen identity, just to name a couple consequences. So if you get an email, message or text message that looks “phishy,” don’t take the requested action.

    Instead, try to handle the situation in one of the following ways, depending:

    If it looks like someone you know, contact the person you know directly via their personal phone or email (not as a reply to the original message) and ask.

    If it looks like one of your account providers, open a fresh browser window and go to the company’s website directly (or their mobile app) to log into your account. Or contact their customer service via the information on their website (not in the suspicious-looking email) to check up.

    If you don’t recognize it at all, just don’t open it, mark it as spam and delete it. Sometimes it’s better to be safe than sorry.

Some common COVID-related scams

Now that we’ve gone over a few major red flags for spotting scams in general, let’s take a closer look into a few examples of scams related to coronavirus – and what they have in common.

While you can find a detailed list of current COVID-related scams at the bottom of this page, here are a few more-detailed examples.

  1. Pretending to be a government agency to steal your personal info

    The Better Business Bureau reports that many scammers are now pretending to be a government agency, such as Social Security or the IRS.

    These scams involve calling, emailing or texting people and telling them that failing to call and provide personal information will result in them not receiving their coronavirus stimulus check.

    Let’s refer back to those red flags we talked about earlier.

    Notice the red flag here?

    These scammers are trying to pressure you into an immediate action with little time to think it over. It’s also a robocall.

    Here’s an audio transcript (reported by ABC news) of what this type of call sounds like:

    "Hello this is a call from the Social Security Administration. During these difficult times of the coronavirus, we regret to inform you that we have got an order to suspend your socials immediately within 24 hours due to suspicious and fraudulent activities found on your socials. We are contacting you as this case is critical and needs your urgent attention. To get more information about this case please call immediately on our department number 888-991-XXXX. I repeat 888-991-XXXX."

  2. Email stating you’ve been infected with COVID-19 by someone you know

    A security research firm found this phishing effort sends emails to target victims telling them they came into contact with a friend, colleague or family member who was infected by coronavirus.

    In this example, the email warns people to download an attachment and go to a hospital. If you click on the attachment, it then downloads malware to your computer.

    Malware is a broad name for a number of malicious softwares, including viruses, ransomware and spyware, according to Wikipedia. It consists of code designed to damage data and systems or gain unauthorized access to a network.

    Red flag present: It’s an email from someone you don’t know asking you to take immediate action by clicking on a link or downloading an attachment.

  3. Sales pitch that promises to protect you from COVID-19

    There are many, and I mean many, of these types of scams running currently.

    While some of these attempts focus on selling you fake test kits, protective equipment, etc., the most unique of these scams I’ve found so far is a cleaning service that promises to eliminate COVID-19 bacteria from the air in your home. (See the report from ABC news.)

    Here’s the audio transcript of the robocall, so you can see exactly what this looks like:

    “Protect your loved ones from the coronavirus. For only $79 our highly trained technicians will do a full air duct cleaning and sanitation to make sure that the air you breathe is free of bacteria. So don’t hesitate, press 0 and have your duct system cleaned and sanitized now. Press 9 to be removed from this list.”

    (Audio source: YouMail)

And those are just a few examples. There are literally dozens of these types of scams out there.

What do these COVID-19 scams have in common?

While on the surface, these scams seem very different, they are all essentially trying to:

  • Steal your personal information
  • Steal your money
  • Steal both at the same time

Don’t make it easy for them.

How to protect yourself from COVID-19 (and other) scams

Now that you know how to spot a scam from a mile away, here’s some general guidance on how to protect your security and privacy, taken largely from various FTC guidelines (see resources below).

  • Don’t share personal information just because someone asks for it
  • Monitor your bank and credit accounts regularly
  • Protect your computer using security software
  • Protect your mobile phone, set the software to automatically update
  • Use complex passwords and change them often
  • Sign up for fraud alerts on your credit cards and bank accounts to stop suspicious activity
  • Don’t open emails from people you don’t know
  • Don’t answer or respond to robocalls
  • Hang up on unwanted or unknown callers
  • Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know
  • Protect accounts using multi-factor authentication (see Wikipedia’s definition)
  • Talk to someone about a possible scam before you take action. In fact, the FTC reports that people who talked to someone else about suspicious offers were less likely to lose money than someone who didn’t.
How to avoid COVID-19 scams specifically, per the FTC:
  • Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls from “the government” about stimulus checks
  • Don’t respond to online offers for home vaccinations and test kits. There aren’t any right now
  • Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO
  • Do your homework before donating money

Additional resources for protecting yourself from scams

Concerned about protecting your credit from identity theft in particular? Read THIS.

Where to report potential scams

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the main government agency that collects scam reports for the U.S.

While the FTC is on high alert to find and stop scammers, if you suspect you’ve been a target of, or have fallen victim to a scam, report it HERE.

Learn more about how the FTC is working to stop COVID-19 scams HERE.

If your credit, bank account information or other finances have been compromised in a scam, be sure to report the situation to your financial institution or lender as soon as possible. You might also consider placing a credit freeze or signing up for fraud alerts.