Organizations Warn of COVID-19 Scams

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Last updated on November 9th, 2023

COVID-19 Scams are becoming more commonplace as global concern about the novel coronavirus spreads. Various security, trade, and health organizations throughout the world are warning the public about these scams and providing information on how to avoid them.

COVID-19 Scams in the U.S.

WXYZ Detroit published a story on Monday about scams in the Detroit, MI metropolitan area targeting senior citizens. Victims reported that they received correspondence from senders claiming to represent medical organizations.

The sender would offer COVID-19 vaccine and require the recipient to provide credit card information to reserve their dose. In reality, there is currently no vaccine to prevent the novel coronavirus.

Scams Reported in Canada

As well, Alberta Health Services (AHS) in Canada has issued a warning about phone scams related to COVID-19. Residents of this Canadian province have reported calls advising the recipient that he or she has tested positive for the virus. The caller then requests the recipient’s personal information.

AHS has advised the public that it never calls individuals to request credit card information. As well, the health organization directed the public to call their local non-emergency law enforcement phone number to report such scam calls.

The U.S. Government Gets Involved

Additionally, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and Food and Drug Administration (FDA) of the United States have gotten involved in advising the public about COVID-19 scams. Both organizations have recently issued letters of warning to entities selling unapproved treatments or preventative aids for the novel coronavirus.

Many of these products consist of essential oils, teas, and other alternative medicines that have no scientific data backing their claims. Marketing products with unsubstantiated health claims is illegal in the United States. Unfortunately, many unscrupulous merchants are taking advantage of the public’s misinformation to sell them snake oil.

Across the Pond

COVID-19 scams have already caused some major economic damage across the Atlantic in Europe. As opposed to North American scams, victims in Europe reported that scammers target consumers looking to purchase medical supplies, like disinfectants and face masks.

The United Kingdom’s Fraud and Cybercrime Centre stated that Europeans have collectively lost nearly €1 million (over USD $1,090,000)  to scammers this year already. Since February, the Centre has identified no less than 21 cases of coronavirus-related scams.

In Europe, there are already reported cases of scammers impersonating the United Nation’s health agency. As such, Interpol has issued public warnings to European residents about telephone and phishing scams.

COVID-19 Scams Take Different Forms

Scams related to the coronavirus epidemic have taken on many guises. Fortunately, many security organizations agree that scammers are using established tricks to fool consumers into divulging their personal and financial information.

As such, organizations throughout the world are able to advise the public on what to look out for. Here are some common scams to be aware of:

  • Phishing – sending emails requesting money or personal information; these can also include viruses or ask you click on a link that can install a virus on your computer.
  • Smishing – similar to phishing but through text messages.
  • Scam websites – scammers will build websites offering false claims; these may include fields to enter your information, including credit card details; scam websites can also employ one of these techniques:
    • Typosquatting – scammers will create a domain name featuring the misspelled name of a legitimate company; usually, the misspelling is minute and barely noticeable.
      • Example: or
    • Combosquatting – similar in principle to typosquatting, but scammers will add a legitimate-sounding word to the domain name; -security is a common addition.
      • Example: or
    • Social media – Most of these scams involve phony requests for donations; many of these scams will utilize legitimate funding platforms, like GoFundMe.

Tips for Avoiding Coronavirus Scams

Fortunately, consumers can avoid COVID-19 by following the FTC and other organizations’ recommendations below:

  • Be wary of pleas for donations to help coronavirus victims and families
    • Always check for a charity’s nonprofit status. Research them before giving.
    • Avoid charities that require you to give donations in cash, gift cards, or through a wire transfer.
  • Avoid investment scams that claim that your money will help find a vaccine, treatment, or cure for COVID-19.
  • Do not accept cold calls offering cleaning or sanitizing services, especially if you’re a senior.
  • Be wary of emails from the CDC or WHO
  • Don’t open emails or click on links from sources you don’t know.
  • Research anyone selling medical supplies or any other goods online to see if they are a legitimate business.
  • Avoid offers for cures or treatments. There is presently no cure for COVID-19.
  • Check for the latest scams here.
  • If you suspect someone is trying to scam you, report it to the FTC.

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