Be aware that criminals are attempting to exploit COVID-19 worldwide through a variety of scams.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home by calling the Department of Justice’s National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or submit the NCDF Web Complaint Form.
Throughout the country, federal, state and local law enforcement are on high alert to investigate reports of individuals and businesses engaging in a wide range of fraudulent and criminal behavior, including the following examples:
- Be on the lookout for antibody testing fraud schemes. Never share your personal or health information to anyone other than known and trusted medical professionals. Learn more about what to avoid.
- Be cautious of unsolicited healthcare fraud schemes through emails, phone calls, or in person contact. The United States has medical professionals and scientists working hard to find a cure, approved treatment, and vaccine for COVID-19. Learn more about what to avoid.
- Be on the lookout for an increase in cryptocurrency fraud schemes including but not limited to blackmail attempts, work from home scams, paying for non-existent treatments or equipment, or investment scams. Read more on how to report these scams.
- Be wary of unsolicited telephone calls and e-mails from individuals claiming to be IRS and Treasury employees. Remember IRS’s first form of communication is by mail - not by phone. Learn more about fraudulent schemes related to the IRS.
- Verify you are receiving the official U.S. Treasury check. Look for the new official seal, bleeding ink, microprinting, watermark, and more.
- Be on the lookout for robocalls making fraudulent offers to sell respiratory masks or other medical devices with no intent of delivery, telephone calls to individuals and entities, including state and local governments, offering the sale of large amounts of Personal Protection Equipment (PPE) and demanding advance payments with no intent of delivery. Look out for sales of counterfeit, tampered, or otherwise fraudulent PPE, including N95 masks, gloves, and surgical gowns.
- Be aware of unsolicited requests for your Medicare information, even if they are accompanied by offers of “free” COVID-19 tests or supplies, or an email or call by someone claiming to be a representative from Medicare or the Department of Health and Human Services. Scammers may use your Medicare information to submit false medical claims for unrelated, unnecessary, or fictitious services. Learn more about fraudulent health care schemes.
- Law enforcement has seen an increase in social media scams and telephone calls fraudulently seeking donations for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations requesting you to enter your bank account information. Emails and texts may claim to be from a charity or use the current crisis to get you to click on a link or download a file. It could be an attempt to infect your computer with malicious software that could steal your personal information, including but not limited to your credit card number or bank password. FBI Sees Rise in the Fraud Schemes Related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.
- Be on the lookout for telephone calls by individuals posing as government officials or payment facilitators promising CARES Act stimulus payments and asking for personal identifying information (PII). Also be aware of mass-mailing, spam email, or text-message campaigns to perpetrate government-imposter schemes. These forms of communication provide a website, a phone number, or an email address for consumers to contact to arrange for stimulus payments upon payment of an advanced fee or threatening adverse consequences for failure to cooperate with the alleged stimulus-related transaction.
- Be wary of calls claiming you received an overpayment of the stimulus money and demanding a “refund” of the difference. Consumers may be threatened with adverse consequences such as fines, forfeiture, or arrest if they refuse to refund the money. Callers may demand payments by stored value cards, such as iTunes, Google play, or Steam cards, or by money transmission such as Western Union or MoneyGram.
- Law enforcement has seen fraud schemes using smartphone apps or websites that claim to be a government office associated with CARES Act programs. These fake sites are requesting PII, including banking information to deposit stimulus payments. Perpetrators then will use this information to debit money from the consumers’ bank accounts.
- Be on the lookout for efforts to divert payments, such as last-minute changes to banking information, through fake emails that appear to come from a trusted source. Be cautious of hackers stealing money, PII and some fraud elements through fake business emails. Read FBI Sees Rise in the Fraud Schemes Related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) Pandemic.
- There’s no question, contact tracing plays a vital role in helping to stop the spread of COVID-19. But scammers, pretending to be contact tracers and taking advantage of how the process works, are also sending text messages. Learn more
Avoid scams related to economic payments, COVID-19 Learn more
Criminals will likely continue to use new methods to exploit COVID-19 worldwide. Stay alert and stay informed about common fraud schemes related to the COVID-19 Pandemic.