Misinformation and finance-related scams, especially those that target older adults, are nothing new. In fact, in recent years, identity theft and similar types of crimes have become much more sophisticated. The FBI warns that the false information and scams related to the COVID-19 pandemic are too numerous to count.
From fake puppy sales targeting people looking for companionship during months of isolation to exorbitant pricing on masks and hand sanitizer, it can be tough to separate fact from fiction.
False Information About Coronavirus
On a variety of fronts, the rise of inaccurate information has reached epidemic proportions. That’s true whether its related to politics or public health. Because COVID-19 was a new virus, legitimate answers were difficult to come by in the earliest days. Much of the inaccuracies originated on social media platforms.
When you are in doubt, turn to credible health agencies and organizations for information. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) are a few reliable sources. The National Institute of Health created a COVID-19 Research section for their website which contains current, fact-based information. Another resource is the country’s most reputable universities, such as The Johns Hopkins School of Medicine Coronavirus Resource Center.
Scams Related to COVID-19
Some of the misinformation that’s making the rounds leads people to fall victim to fraud and scams which results in millions of dollars lost. Here are three of the most common types of COVID-19 crimes:
1. Products promising a cure
Throughout history, vulnerable people have been targeted with miracle cures for everything from cancer to polio. The COVID-19 crisis is no different. When fear is high, it might be tempting to get tricked into one of these types of scams.
That’s why it’s important to remember there are no current products you can purchase that will cure coronavirus. But there are 2 COVID-19 vaccines approved for use in this country that offer protection. Neither of these can be purchased directly from a pharmaceutical company or any other vendor.
2. Fake coronavirus test kits
Access to coronavirus testing has been tough to come by in many parts of the country. It’s led to a cottage industry of fake testing kits that can be performed at home. Scammers are contacting people via phone, mail, email, and even text message.
Some of these bogus test kits are designed to gain access to a senior’s personal information, including Medicare and insurance numbers. Others are an attempt to get money or credit card information. The safest option if you believe you or a loved one requires a COVID-19 test is to call your primary care physician’s office, the health department, or a local urgent care center.
3. Fundraising campaigns that aren’t legitimate
Unfortunately, another type of crime that is the result of the coronavirus pandemic is fake fundraising campaigns. These prey on the generosity of Americans during times of difficulty.
Someone falsely claiming to be stricken by the virus or have a family member in desperate need of help will launch a fundraising campaign, typically via social media. The stories are shared and reshared and people donate money, clothing, food, and other necessities.
The bottom line when it comes to false information and financial scams is to do your research using established, credible agencies and health care professionals. Don’t rely on rumors and social media for advice on such crucial matters.