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Watch For Scams Newsletter. Covid19 scams
April 06, 2020

Covid-19 scams

Watch For Scams is dedicated to helping you avoid becoming a victim of fraud.

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Covid-19 scams

It seems the Coronavirus scams are spreading as fast as the virus itself.

Coronavirus scams targeting online sellers.

Surgical masks, hand sanitizer and cleaning supplies that can kill the Coronavirus are in short supply in many countries. Many online retailers recently have lost orders of masks to fraudsters paying with stolen credit cards. The thieves got the masks—presumably to mark up and resell. The merchants lost the value of the sale and faced costly chargeback fees from their banks.

Online sellers who run marketplaces need to be vigilant about what their marketplace sellers are offering. Amazon has been aggressively removing counterfeit and unproven products that claim to detect, treat, or cure COVID-19. In early March, an Amazon representative told U.S. House members that the company has pulled more than a million such items from its marketplace.

Until the shortages pass, people seeking infection-control items should be suspicious of unfamiliar sites that offer plenty of masks, hand sanitizer and other in-demand items—especially if the site requires you to buy in bulk. Fraudulent websites offering these items have stolen more than $1 million from U.K. residents during February and early March.

Fake cures and treatments aren’t just a problem for online marketplaces. Some scammers are promoting teas and herbal remedies for Coronavirus on their own websites. The Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration sent warning letters to seven online sellers in mid-March because of the COVID-19 claims they make about their products. The FTC’s advice to consumers is, “ask yourself: if there’s been a medical breakthrough, would you be hearing about it for the first time through an ad or sales pitch?”

Other scammers are exploiting people’s concern for others by impersonating charities and even the World Health Organization (WHO) to ask for donations. WHO says these attempts at fraud are being sent “in the form of emails, websites, phone calls, text messages and even fax messages.” WHO doesn’t solicit donations or ask for personal information or payment card data.

Staying safe from Coronavirus fraud

Some of the best advice for avoiding COVID-19 fraud is simple but effective, similar to the health advice about handwashing to slow the spread of the disease. When you’re shopping, researching, or answering messages online:

1. If you see a Coronavirus claim that’s too good to be true, it probably is.

2. Don’t trust links or attachments from unfamiliar senders, whether they’re discussing COVID-19 or something else.

3. If the sender or website seems familiar and reputable, but the message is about Coronavirus, double-check. One cybersecurity firm found that websites with the terms COVID or Coronavirus in the domain name are “50% more likely to be malicious” than other websites.

Taking steps to protect yourself, your loved ones and your business from COVID-related fraud may seem like an added burden when many of us are focused on safeguarding our health and that of the people around us. But by staying alert to scams, you can avoid the extra stress of dealing with fraud, financial losses, or identity theft during this public health crisis

If you believe you have been a victim of this type of scam you should promptly report it to the IC3's website at The IC3's complaint database links complaints together to refer them to the appropriate law enforcement agency for case consideration.

Remember - always watch for scams!


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