͐• Emails selling fake COVID-19 cures.
• Phone calls offering free masks in exchange for Medicare numbers.
• Fake contact tracers requesting money.
As coronavirus cases continue to rise, so do the number of scams related to the virus, many of which target older adults. These are just a few of the coronavirus-related scams preying on people’s fear of the virus and financial uncertainties.
Scams to watch out for
Knowing what scams are out there is the first step to avoid one. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Federal Communications Commission, and Federal Trade Commission report the following coronavirus-related scams to look out for:
- Scams offering COVID-19 vaccine, cure, air filters or testing. At this time, there is no vaccine or cure for the virus. If you receive a call or email to sell you one, it is a scam.
- Fake coronavirus-related charity scams. Scammers may pose as a fake charity that sounds real. If you are considering donating to a charity, choose one on your own rather than responding to a request.
- “Person in need” scams. Some scammers will send emails pretending to be a friend or relative claiming to be ill and requesting money. If you receive an email or text, call your loved one on the phone to verify it was really them. If you get a phone call making such a request, hang up, and call your loved one’s phone number yourself.
- Scams targeting your Social Security benefits. Any communication that says the Social Security Administration will suspend or decrease your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call.
- Medicare scams. Some Medicare beneficiaries have reported getting phone calls offering “COVID Wellness Kits” with supplies like hand sanitizer or face masks in exchange for personal Medicare information. Medicare will never call you to sell you anything
- Contact tracer scams. A real contact tracer will only ask you for your name, address, health information and the names of places and people you have visited. A fake contact tracer may ask you for financial information or payment.
- Undelivered goods scams. Scammers are selling products in high demand like cleaning supplies and medical supplies, but not delivering the goods. Before making an online purchase, check out sellers by searching for the company’s name online. Pay by credit card, and keep a copy of your transaction.
Tips to protect yourself from scams
- Never give your Social Security, bank account or credit card number to anyone who contacts you—not even if they say they’re from the government.
- If someone calls and asks for your Medicare information, hang up. Medicare will only call you if you’ve called and left a message or if a representative said that someone will call you back.
- Ignore offers for vaccinations, and be wary of ads for home test kits. Most test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA, and aren’t necessarily accurate.
- Never donate money in cash, by gift card or by wiring money.
- Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person who contacted you.
- Do not give money or personal financial information to someone claiming to be a contact tracer. Legitimate contact tracers need health information; they will not ask for payment or financial information.
- Trust your gut. If something doesn’t feel right to you, say no.
How to report suspected scams
- If you come across any scams or suspicious claims, report them to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
- Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov.
- Report suspicious activities by calling 1-800-MEDICARE (1-800-633-4227).