GoBanking Logo
GoBanking Logo

10 Coronavirus Fake Offers To Avoid at All Costs

ArtMarie / Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has put many Americans in a state of constant fear — fear about their economic stability, their health and the health of their loved ones. Unfortunately, fear can make you an easy target for scammers who are peddling everything from the coronavirus “cures” to get-rich-quick schemes.

Before you hand over any personal information or payment to anyone, beware of these 10 coronavirus-related offers you should avoid.

Last updated: April 3, 2020

filo / Getty Images

1. Get Your Economic Stimulus Money Now

Phishing attacks are ramping up again, with scammers promising unwitting stimulus check recipients that they can receive their money faster by clicking a link sent via text message or email, CNBC reported. Clicking the link can allow the scammer to access your phone or computer, and steal sensitive personal information, such as Social Security numbers or bank account numbers.

Scammers might also contact potential victims via telephone, posing as federal employees and asking for sensitive information, saying that they need the info to be able to send over the stimulus check.

igorstevanovic / Shutterstock.com

How To Spot a Fake Offer

Anyone who claims they can get you your stimulus money fast is a scammer, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC notes that no action is required on your part to get the stimulus check and you should not give your personal information to anyone claiming that you need to “sign up” to receive your payout.

recep-bg / Getty Images

2. Work-From-Home Job Offer

With many people out of work and numerous businesses closed, many Americans are now looking for ways to make money from home. Some people could be vulnerable to offers of work-from-home jobs that are actually scams, CNBC reported.

Scammers can place ads for ways to make big money from home, but then when you inquire about the job, you are asked to spend money on training, special access or extra services — all for a job that doesn’t really exist. Or you might get a call from someone saying they have a job offer for you, asking for your Social Security information or other personal information upfront — once again for a job that isn’t real.

triloks / Getty Images/iStockphoto

How To Spot a Fake Offer

The FTC recommends doing your research before accepting any “job offer.” Search the company’s name plus “scam,” “review” and “complaint.” The FTC notes that you should never have to pay money to make money.

3. Claim Your Sweepstakes Prize

Sweepstakes scams became more prominent during the last financial crisis, and they will likely become more commonplace again now that many people are struggling, CNBC reported.

“These prey on people who, if they weren’t in desperate financial straits, might be more resistant to those types of scams,” John Breyault, vice president of public policy, telecommunications and fraud at the National Consumers League, told CNBC.

You might get a call saying you won a million dollars or diamond jewelry in a sweepstakes that you don’t remember entering, and that you just have to pay a small fee to claim your prize.

Find Out: 21 Smartest Ways To Invest Your Money Right Now

martin-dm / Getty Images

How To Spot a Fake Offer

If you’re told you need to pay taxes, shipping and handling charges, or processing fees to claim your prize, that’s a sign that the sweepstakes is not legitimate, according to the FTC. You should also not be asked to give your bank account or credit card information as part of a sweepstakes.

gorodenkoff / Getty Images/iStockphoto

4. Invest In a Coronavirus Cure

Many investors have seen their portfolios take a major tumble in recent weeks and might be looking for something new to invest in that seems sure to increase in value. Now, scammers are offering investors the ability to invest in alleged vaccines or cures for COVID-19, CNBC reported.

DjelicS / Getty Images

How To Spot a Fake Offer

The SEC warns that investors should be extra cautious about any claims that a company’s products or services can help stop the coronavirus.

“These claims may be made as part of fraudulent ‘pump-and-dump’ schemes,” the SEC states on its website. “You may lose significant amounts of money if you invest in a company that makes inaccurate or unreliable claims. You may not be able to sell your shares if trading in the company is suspended.”

The SEC warns that microcap stocks — low-priced stocks offered by small companies — are particularly vulnerable to investment fraud schemes, so be wary of any offers to invest in this type of stock.

5. Buy Your Own COVID-19 Test Kit or Vaccine

Scammers have been posting online offers for vaccinations and home test kits, and these types of fake offers are especially prevalent in Washington, California and New York — the states with the highest rates of infection, CBS News reported.

shotbydave / iStock.com

How To Spot a Fake Offer

Right now, there are no products that have been proven to treat or prevent COVID-19. There also are no FDA-authorized coronavirus home test kits. If you see an offer for any product claiming to treat, prevent or test for the coronavirus, it’s a fake offer.

uchar / Getty Images/iStockphoto

6. Donate To Help the Coronavirus Victims

Those of us with the financial means to do so might be looking for ways to donate our money to help healthcare workers, people who lost their jobs and people who have fallen ill due to the coronavirus. And unfortunately, there are scammers looking to take advantage of people’s generosity.

Some scammers are posing as charities claiming to help the coronavirus victims, CBS News reported. In these cases, the scammer asks for money upfront as a charitable donation.

Be Prepared: Here’s How Much Emergency Cash You Need Stashed if an Emergency Happens

How To Spot a Fake Offer

Before donating to any charity, research it online to make sure it is legitimate. If someone tries to rush you to donate, don’t do it — that’s a sign of a scam. Another sign of a fake charity is if they ask for donations via cash, gift card or money wire, according to the FTC.

7. Stock Up on Masks, Hand Sanitizer or Toilet Paper

Coronavirus-related supplies like masks, hand sanitizer and toilet paper are now in high demand and low supply, so some scammers might advertise that they have these supplies in stock. According to the FTC, “they claim to have the essentials you need, but in reality, they’re fakes that take your ‘order,’ grab your credit card number and run.”

fizkes / Getty Images/iStockphoto

How To Spot a Fake Offer

Ads for toilet paper, antibacterial wipes or N95 masks might lead you to a website that looks like the site of a popular online retailer, so it’s important to double-check the URL before entering any credit card information. Only buy from websites and suppliers you know and trust.

ArtistGNDphotography / Getty Images

8. Track the Coronavirus Outbreak on Your Phone

Some smartphone apps promise to help you track the coronavirus outbreak right from your phone. Such was the case with an Android app called CovidLock that claimed to do just that, but instead, it allowed hackers to lock the devices and demand ransom from the phone owners, CNET reported. Reason Labs also found that hackers have been using the coronavirus-tracking map websites to install malware into people’s browsers.

filadendron / Getty Images

How To Spot a Fake Offer

Only download apps from trusted platforms, like Google Play and the Apple App Store. And be wary of visiting websites that have the coronavirus-related URLs. A study by Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. found that the coronavirus-themed domain registrations are 50% more likely than other URLs to be from malicious actors, Market Watch reported. Stick to news sources you’re already familiar with to get the latest updates on the coronavirus.

Harsh Reality: How the Coronavirus Outbreak Is Devastating the Livelihood of Hourly Workers

FG Trade / Getty Images

9. Keep Up-to-Date With the Latest From the CDC and WHO

You might receive an unsolicited email allegedly sent from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization. The emails will prompt you to click a link or download a Word document.

bunditinay / Getty Images/iStockphoto

How To Spot a Fake Offer

A recent phishing scam involved emails sent out purporting to be from the CDC that instructed the user to open an attached Microsoft Office document for details on how to prevent the spread of influenza. The link allowed the sender to install malware on the user’s computer. A ransom note would pop up, and the hacker asked for Bitcoin payment in exchange for the encryption key.

The Centers for Disease Control and the World Health Organization will never send unsolicited emails asking for personal information, Washington, D.C.’s WUSA 9 reported.

If you receive an email claiming to be from one of these organizations, hover the mouse over any included links to see where it leads before clicking it, and do not open any email attachments. The best way to get up-to-date information from the CDC and WHO is to visit their websites directly, according to the FTC.

UberImages / Getty Images/iStockphoto

10. Buy Health Insurance

A scammer might call you with an offer to buy health insurance — these types of calls have been on the rise due to the coronavirus pandemic, the FCC reported. For example, one scam voicemail shared on YouMail included the following script: “The coronavirus is spreading. [To keep] your family safe and secure, speak to one of our health agents about getting you covered with the lowest cost health plan in the country. Now is the time to act. Don’t be late.”

AzmanJaka / Getty Images

How To Spot a Fake Offer

If you receive a call from an unknown number, don’t pick up. If you do and you get the sense that it might be a scam, hang up immediately. These scammers might offer health insurance from legitimate providers like Cigna and Blue Cross Blue Shield. To make sure the offer is legitimate, your best bet is to call these companies directly.

More From GOBankingRates