Watch out for these Pandemic Scams

In uncertain times, fraudsters are ready to take advantage of the new opportunities that this pandemic brings. Americans are easy targets right now with so much information unknown and so many left vulnerable in the face of unemployment.

With all the stimulus checks and unemployment claims, it’s hard to ignore a phone call from someone alleging that they work for the government. Scammers are well aware of this and can be quite convincing.

If you were one of the 36 million people that lost their jobs during COVID-19, then we recommend you read our blog on cutting expenses and increasing income.

Don’t become prey to these common scams. We’ve made a list to prepare you for the most common scams happening in New York and the USA.

Common Scams During COVID-19

1. Fake Tests

This con will likely call and direct you to a website that looks like a medical supply company offering COVID-19 testing. They will tell you that these tests can identify if you’ve been infected with coronavirus, even if you’ve already recovered. Tempting, isn’t it? No, don’t fall for it. All they want you to do is fill out a form and give your credit card details.

If you want to get tested, reach out to a real doctor. They can help you figure out if the test will be covered by insurance and where to find a legitimate clinic. If you don’t have a primary care physician, check out the official website of your local health department for more information on testing availability.

2. Phishing Texts and Emails

Fraudsters have adapted their usual text and email messages for the pandemic. In emails and texts, they pretend to be reputable organizations like the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control. They will ask for personal information – one of the oldest internet scams in the book.

Government agencies do not typically communicate through text messages. You can contact the organization if you are unsure, but generally, avoid clicking on links from unknown senders — and don’t respond.

3. Scam Calls

They do their homework on you and manipulate phone networks to call you from numbers they aren’t actually calling from — including digits that belong to your bank, area code, or a government agency.

Just hang up and call the customer service number (of whatever agency or organization they called you from) back and ask whether they truly tried to call you.

4. Pet Sales

Yes, it has come to this. Scammers are now exploiting puppy lovers. Americans are being tricked into buying nonexistent puppies online during the coronavirus pandemic. Sophisticated advertisements are tricking hopeful pet owners into sending money for puppies they haven’t even seen yet.

The BBB advises those looking to buy a pet not to send any money without seeing it in person and to avoid payments through wire transfers, cash apps or gift cards. The group recommends buyers check local animal shelters, which are in need of fosters during the pandemic.

5. Fake Online Stores

Fraudsters are trying to capitalize on our increase of online spending by creating fake websites. These fake stores pretend to be legitimate so that they can trick users into sharing other private information. These websites may have offers that are too good to be true or product descriptions that make little to no sense.

Just look at the image below to see how much phishing sites have increased, according to Google’s Unsafe Websites report. If you are unsure if a website is legitimate, check the reviews on social media or other review sites, or try to find contact details like an address or phone number. If you did buy something on a fake site, call your bank or credit card company immediately.

Unsafe websites detected per week by Google.

The best way to protect yourself is by staying informed. Hopefully, this will cause you to be more vigilant. Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

For more consumer tips regarding COVID-19, see BBB.org/Coronavirus. For more business tips, see BBB.org/Covid and BBB.org/SmallBusiness. If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.