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10 Tips to Avoid COVID-19 Scams

Beware of fake charities, sham investments and other schemes

Closeup of a male doctor showing a sign with the text coronavirus alert written on it
juan moyano / Alamy Stock Photo

Here's advice from the Justice Department on dodging fraud during the pandemic. It says some scams are known, some are just emerging.

1. Independently verify the identity of any company, charity or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.

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2. Check the websites and email addresses offering information, products or services related to COVID-19. Be aware that scammers often employ addresses that differ only slightly from those belonging to the entities they are impersonating. For example, they might use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of “cdc.gov,” which is the legitimate website of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Psychological Tricks Scammers Use

3. Be wary of unsolicited emails offering information, supplies or treatment for COVID-19 or requesting your personal information for medical purposes. Legitimate health authorities will not contact the general public this way.

4. Do not click on links or open email attachments from unknown or unverified sources. Doing so could download a virus onto your computer or device.

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5. Make sure the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer is operating and up to date.

6. Ignore offers from suspicious sources for a COVID-19 vaccine, cure or treatment. Remember, if a vaccine becomes available, you won't hear about it for the first time through an email, online ad or unsolicited sales pitch.

7. Check online reviews of any company offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Avoid companies whose customers have complained about not receiving items.

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8. Research any charities or crowdfunding sites soliciting donations tied to COVID-19 before making a donation. Remember, an organization may not be legitimate even if it uses words like “CDC” or “government” in its name, or if it has reputable-looking seals or logos on its materials. For information online on donating wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.

9. Be wary of any business, charity or individual requesting payments or donations in cash or by wire transfer, gift card or using the mail. Don't send money using these payment methods or channels.

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10. Be cautious of “investment opportunities” related to COVID-19, especially those based on claims that a small company's products or services can help stop the virus. If you decide to invest, carefully research the investment beforehand. Here's what the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission tells older Americans about avoid investment fraud.

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Get instant access to members-only products and hundreds of discounts, a free second membership, and a subscription to AARP the Magazine.