COVID-19 Scams & Fraud
Scams and fraud during the COVID-19 pandemic put you at risk for identity and financial theft. They can also be dangerous for your health. As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, scammers are still at work. They might get in touch by phone, email, postal mail, text, and/or social media. Protect your money and your identity. Don't share personal information such as your bank account number, Social Security number, date of birth or other personal information. Scammers are stealing personal information, and selling things that don’t work or should actually be free. They are also using robocalls, social media, phishing emails and other ways to take advantage of people’s fears, anxieties, and confusion around COVID-19.
Misinformation is often used to trick people into falling for a COVID-19 scam. When you hear something new about COVID-19, ask yourself these questions to check if the information is trustworthy.
LEARN HOW TO RECOGNIZE A COVID-19 SCAM
Scammers have stepped up their game to prey on people seeking a COVID-19 test.
If you need to get tested for COVID-19, choose a trusted health care provider, clinic, or pharmacy. If you hear about a test site on social media, check the source before you go. Scammers have been known to pose as neighbors and list their location on community networks and websites.
If you need a test right away, you can get free self-tests that return results in 15 to 30 minutes. Learn about these and other ways to find COVID-19 testing here in Imperial County.
Clues that a COVID-19 testing site could be a scam:
- Employees not wearing masks or gloves. They must wear full personal protective equipment (PPE), such as medical masks, gloves, gowns, and sometimes face shields.
- Employees who do not know or share the name of the laboratory and the company that performs the tests.
- Lack of signage displaying the name of the testing provider.
- Using an unauthorized test: the results cannot be trusted. Only get the tests that are authorized by the FDA.
- Misspellings or poor grammar in published information or test paperwork.
- Require proof of residence, social security number or passport for proof. You will need some form of identification, but if the social security number is REQUIRED, this is a red flag.
- There is no information on how you will get your test results.
- Being charged for a COVID-19 test. COVID-19 testing is available free of charge to anyone who lives in Imperial County. If you have public or private insurance, you should not be charged any copays. Some private sites may charge, for example, for services such as expedited test results. Ask ahead of time if there are any charges or fees. Asking for cash is a red flag.
- Being told that getting an official test (or treatment) will affect your immigration status.
- Getting a COVID-19 test, treatment, or vaccine will NOT affect your immigration status. COVID-19 services are not a public benefit under the public charge rule.
- Su información médica es privada. Su médico no puede compartirlo con los funcionarios de inmigración.
Pistas de que una oferta de un kit de autodiagnóstico podría ser una estafa:
Encontrar un kit de prueba casero a la venta en la calle o de puerta en puerta, o en un paquete abierto.
Los kits de prueba caseros se venden en paquetes sellados y siempre incluyen instrucciones oficiales del fabricante.
Nunca use una prueba que no esté empaquetada. No podrás confiar en los resultados.
- Recibes una llamada ofreciéndote pruebas gratuitas. Si recibe una llamada de alguien que solicita su información, como tarjeta de crédito o número de seguro social, no responda, es una estafa. Puede solicitar 4 kits de prueba gratuitos para el hogar autorizados por la FDA en COVIDtests.gov o llamando al 1-800-232-0233, pero nadie de este programa federal lo llamará.
Visite https://www.covid.gov/tests para averiguar cómo obtener pruebas de COVID-19 adicionales en el hogar autorizadas por la FDA sin costo alguno.
Consejos para comprar un kit de prueba en línea:
Antes de comprar un kit de prueba en línea, consulte el sitio web que lo vende.
Verifique si la prueba ha sido autorizada por la FDA aquí.
If you are looking for COVID-19 vaccine site, choose a trusted healthcare provider, clinic, pharmacy or the local health department. Find COVID-19 vaccine site information here.
Look for these clues to avoid COVID-19 vaccination scams:
Being charged to receive the vaccine.
Vaccines are free for everyone in the US, regardless of immigration status. You don't need to have insurance. Vaccines are widely available throughout Imperial County. No appointment is needed but it is recommended at many locations and you will not be asked about your immigration status. In-home vaccination is available to people with mobility issues.
Being offered ‘the vaccine’ that will be sent directly to your home.
- COVID-19 vaccines must be given by a licensed healthcare provider. Anything that is sent to you will not be a real vaccine.
- Be aware of persons making phone calls, texts, or emails demanding personal information in order to receive a vaccine or cash prize.
- Do not respond to someone who asks you to respond immediately with your personal information, like a social security, bank account, or credit card number.
Being sold a COVID-19 vaccination record.
- Do not click on links you do not recognize or trust.
- Do not access websites that offer proof of vaccination in exchange for money. You should never have to pay for a copy of your COVID-19 vaccination record.
- Everyone who is vaccinated in California can request a free digital COVID-19 Vaccination Record. Visit myvaccinerecord.cdph.ca.gov.
Look for these clues to avoid COVID-19 treatment scams:
Seeing advertisements and promotions for supplements and “treatments” to prevent or cure COVID-19
Vitamins or minerals or other dietary supplements have not been proven to prevent or cure COVID-19. In fact, the FDA has issued warning letters to many companies for selling products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.
Scammers sell fake vaccines or “miracle cures” and promote unproven treatments on the internet and social media. Buying questionable and untested products may cause serious harm.
- Always consult a licensed healthcare provider before taking any medicine or health product.
Being asked to pay to enroll in a clinical trial.
- Scientists conduct clinical trials to find out if a vaccine or treatment is safe and effective.
- Typically, people do not have to pay to take part in clinical trials. Expenses are covered as part of the clinical trial and researchers have to follow strict rules that include measures to protect the participants.
- Visit this FDA webpage to learn more about clinical trials.
Look out for the following:
Being asked to provide information or money before receiving a stimulus check or other government help
The government will NOT ask you to pay money in advance to receive your Federal stimulus check, unemployment insurance payment, or social security monthly payment.
The government will not ask for your social security number or credit card or bank information (such as your bank routing number).
The IRS or other government agencies will not contact you by email or telephone.
You do not need to pay for help to fill out paperwork.
Learn more here about how to avoid being scammed out of your government payment
Look out for the following:
Being overcharged for basics necessities, including tests
It is illegal for businesses to raise their prices too much during a state of emergency, such as the COVID-19 pandemic. This is called price gouging, and it is a crime in California.
Businesses are not allowed to charge more than 10% above the usual price for essential goods and services, such as housing, food, and emergency supplies. This includes COVID-19 tests and masks.
Scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to try to steal insurance numbers, personal information, and money. If anyone contacts you asking for your insurance number, Social Security number, or other personal information in exchange for something, it’s most likely a scam.
Older adults are especially vulnerable because scammers take advantage of their loneliness, ease of trust, savings, and challenges with technology. Senior Living explains the latest COVID-19 scams aimed at older adults and how to prevent them, as well as tips for senior-friendly technology.
Look out for the following:
Being asked to provide personal information
Never provide personally identifiable information (medical insurance, social security, bank account, or credit card number) in response to an unsolicited (uninvited or unknown) contact.
- Guard your Medicare or Medi-Cal card. Learn about medical identity theft here
Remember, government agencies will:
Never contact you for your number or other personal information unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
Never call you to sell you anything.
Never visit you at your home.
Look out for the following:
Receiving robocalls and emails from a “government agency”
- Scammers use illegal robocalls to try to sell things or information that might seem valuable or popular, but it’s a trick. They are trying to get your money and your personal information. Hang up on robocalls! If they continue, make a note of their information so that you can report them to the Federal Trade Commission. You can also reduce the number of real sales calls by signing up for the “Do Not Call List”
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or World Health Organization with inside information. Go to CDC’s COVID-19 website and the WHO’s COVID-19 website to get the latest information instead.
- Protect yourself. Do not click on links or respond to an e-mail or text that you do not recognize. They may be promoting scams or contain viruses or malware that can damage your computer or steal your information.
Contact tracing scams
People pretending they are doing contact tracing for COVID-19 may call, visit, write, or email and try to get information or money from you.
- The Imperial County Public Health Department is calling, emailing, and texting people who have COVID-19 and people who they may have been in contact with for isolation, quarantine and/or case investigation purposes, but rest assured they will NEVER request a social security number or financial information. They will never ask about immigration status.
Stay up to date with reliable information. Beware of fake news and hoaxes as well as scams surrounding COVID-19.
Sign up for Scam Alerts
- Sign up for the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) Fraud Alerts Watch
- Sign up to receive the Federal Trade Commission’s consumer alerts