As of April 27, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) had logged more than 732,000 consumer complaints related to COVID-19 and stimulus payments since the start of the pandemic, 72.5 percent of them involving fraud or identity theft. These scams have cost consumers $778 million, with a median loss of $415.
Criminals are using the full suite of scam tools — phishing emails and texts, bogus social media posts, robocalls, impostor schemes and more — and closely following the headlines, adapting their messages and tactics as new medical and economic issues arise.
For example, when demand for COVID-19 tests spiked amid the omicron variant surge, federal and state authorities warned consumers about scammers selling fake or unauthorized at-home rapid tests online, or charging for tests that are administered for free by medical offices and public health departments.
Here are some coronavirus scams to look out for.
Fake tests and bogus cures
During the omicron wave, authorities in several states reported that scammers were setting up bogus pop-up testing clinics, or impersonating health care workers to approach people waiting in long lines at legitimate sites. Crooks offer quick access to fake or unapproved COVID-19 tests, collecting personal, financial or medical information they can use in identity theft or health insurance scams.
A January Better Business Bureau alert spotlights another common con: Robocalls direct consumers to fake clinic or medical supply websites that collect personal information or credit card numbers in the guise of offering test kits.
The FTC has taken legal action against companies suspected of abetting coronavirus robocalls, and the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) set up a dedicated website with information on COVID-19 phone scams.