Federal agencies are spelling out the various types of scams criminals are using in the midst of the world dealing with COVID-19.

Scammers are out in full force, trying to take advantage of people worried about the coronavirus. Remember, these fraud schemes can come at you via phone call, email, text and social media. Always be alert, check trusted sources and keep your personal information private.

Illegal robocalls

The Federal Communications Commission said criminals are using illegal robocalls to try and get private information from victims. One reported scam preys on the concern that there aren’t enough testing kits to go around. The FCC released this example of a scam circulating in the U.S. 

“The Coronavirus Response Act has made coronavirus testing more accessible immediately. If you want to receive a free testing kit delivered overnight to your home, press 1. If you do not want your free testing, press 2.” 

This is not true. There are no at-home coronavirus test kits. When receiving robocalls like this, do not press any buttons and hang up.  The Federal Trade Commission said illegal robocalls are also pitching coronavirus treatments, work-at-home schemes and claims that HVAC duct cleanings can “protect” your home from the coronavirus. The FCC warns that pressing a button during these types of calls may lead to even more robocalls.

Fake emails

The federal government has passed a stimulus bill to help people who may be struggling financially due to coronavirus-related shutdowns. And now the Federal Bureau of Investigation is warning about correlating phishing emails. It says to look out for emails asking for personal information in order to get that check from the government.

Misleading websites

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration makes it clear that while it is working to do so, it has not yet approved any vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat COVID-19. 

“Fraudulent COVID-19 products can come in many varieties, including dietary supplements and other foods, as well as products claiming to be tests, drugs, medical devices, or vaccines,” according to the FDA. 

The Administration, along with the FTC, has issued warning letters to seven companies for selling such fraudulent products. These companies’ products include essential oils, teas, colloidal silver and herbal extracts.

“There are currently no vaccines or drugs approved to treat or prevent COVID-19,” according to the FDA. “Although there are investigational COVID-19 vaccines and treatments under development, these investigational products are in the early stages of product development and have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness.”

The U.S. Department of Justice recently shut down a website offering fake coronavirus vaccine kits. The website claimed the kits were from the World Health Organization and that consumers need only give credit card details to pay a $4.95 shipping charge. Again, there is not yet any FDA-approved vaccine for COVID-19. “We will use every resource at the government’s disposal to act quickly to shut down these most despicable of scammers,” said Assistant Attorney General Jody Hunt.

The government isn’t the only entity trying to shut down scammers. Amazon has taken more than one million products from its marketplace for making false claims related to the coronavirus. 

Impersonators

There’s some possible good news on the impersonation front. NBC News looked into social and news media posts from all around the country claiming people were going door-to-door posing as coronavirus testers. It found that despite reports (even from police departments and state attorneys general) that this was a threat to the public, no one ever actually reported any legitimate incidents.

How do I avoid falling for COVID-19 scams?

Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.

Buy from trusted retailers and know that right now there are no at-home test kits, vaccines or drugs to cure or prevent COVID-19.

Never give your personal information in response to an email, phone call or text. Don’t click on attachments from unsolicited sources.

Remember, verify details and check sources before sharing and spreading information or rumors on social media. Share with others simple tips on how to keep safe from scammers.

Be sure to report any suspected fraud scheme related to COVID-19 by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud hotline at 1-866-720-5721 or email them at disaster@leo.gov.