Public Health Response:

Scams & cybercrime

FTC gives dire warning about COVID-19 scams

published March 31, 2020 • 4:00 pm

The U.S. government has been busy battling cybercriminals and their ruthless coronavirus scams. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) sent a warning letter to seven companies earlier this month that were advertising products with unsupported claims.

Now, the Federal Trade Commission is warning everyone about a handful of new coronavirus-related scams making the rounds. Here are a few scams to watch for and what to do about them:

  • Undelivered goods – Some online sellers are claiming they have in-demand products for sale when they actually don’t and you place an order but never receive it. Anyone can set up an online shop under almost any name and that includes scammers.

    • What to do: Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction.

    • If you’re concerned about the pricing of products in your area, contact the consumer protection officials at Missouri Attorney’s General Office at

  • Fake charities – When a major health event like the coronavirus happens, you might be looking for information and ways to help. Scammers use the same events to take advantage of your generosity.

    • Some use names that sound a lot like the names of real charities. This is one reason it pays to do some research before giving. Money lost to bogus charities means fewer donations to help those in need.

    • What to do: The FTC has a list of ways to help you research charities here.

  • Robocalls – Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work from home schemes.

What to do: Your best move is to hang up immediately on these robocalls. Keep reading for more ways to avoid these scams.

How to avoid coronavirus scams

The FTC wants to help everyone avoid falling victim to these heinous coronavirus scams. Here are some suggested tips to help:

  1. Hang up on robocalls – Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work from home schemes. It’s important to note that if you receive robocalls like these do not press any numbers on your phone. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from the call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.

  2. Fact-check information – Scammers are sharing information that hasn’t been verified so before you pass along any info, contact trusted sources to verify it’s correct.

  3. Know who you’re buying from – Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products like disinfectants, household staples, health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.

  4. Don’t reply to emails and texts about checks from the government – Details about a potential stimulus package are still being worked out. If anyone tells you they can get you your money now, it’s a scam.

  5. Avoid clicking on links from unknown sources – Emails and texts related to coronavirus could be phishing scams that infect your device with malware.

  6. Watch for emails claiming to be from experts – If you get an email supposedly from the CDC or WHO with coronavirus information, there’s a chance it’s a phishing attack. For the most up-to-date information go directly to the CDC and WHO websites.

  7. Ignore online offers for vaccinations – There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19.

  8. Do your homework when it comes to donations – Whether you’re looking to donate through charities or crowdfunding sites, verify they are the real thing first. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone asks for donations in cash, by gift card or wiring money, don’t do it.

It’s critical that we all do our best to help each other through this pandemic. Don’t let scammers ruin your spirit. Stay vigilant and remember to Stop, Think, before you Connect!