During any public crisis, there are always bad actors who come out of the woodwork with scams designed to take advantage of people’s confusion or fear. The current coronavirus pandemic is no exception, unfortunately. Older people are, in general, at higher risk for being infected with the coronavirus and contracting COVID-19. Because the virus is very contagious and can cause serious illness or death, fearful older people may be particularly vulnerable to con artists who promise protection or cures.
In addition to being more at risk of infection, seniors are, in general, frequent targets of scams. They may be more trusting, less familiar with tech tricks, and most attractive of all to fraudsters, they may have ample savings to drain.
Unfortunately, little is still known about the novel coronavirus, which first appeared in late 2019. Scientists and researchers are working diligently to discover more about the virus, how it can be treated, and trying to create a vaccine that can prevent future infections. All of this research takes time, and any claims of a “miracle cure” at this date are premature at best, and a dangerous scam at worst.
Here are some of the scams we have found documented. Knowing about them in advance is the best protection.
There is no known cure or vaccine for the coronavirus. While several labs are exploring promising treatments and trying to create a safe, effective vaccine, anyone who tries to sell you a cure or vaccine now is lying to you. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have identified dozens of companies selling various products with a claim that those products could prevent or cure COVID-19. One website claimed to offer an effective vaccine—which, as we’ve stated, does not exist and is unlikely to exist soon.
Among the many products that have been offered online, over the phone, and through other means include:
Some of these products could actually make you sick; some are harmless, and some might have some incidental health benefits. But none of them have been proven to have any effectiveness against COVID-19. The only thing they are guaranteed to cure you of is having too much money in your pocket. If you need treatment or guidance on preventing infection, consult your doctor or local health department.
We’ve all heard on the news how difficult it is to get tested for COVID-19. Though more tests have been made available recently, it is still not possible to test everyone who wants or needs to be tested.
Therefore, it is a relief to many older people to learn that convenient tests are being made available at drive-thru sites, by mail-order, or even via health care workers coming door to door. Unfortunately, these convenient tests are likely to be just another way to take your money.
Some reputable health care facilities are getting drive-thru testing up and running. But steer clear of any drive-thru that is not affiliated with a known medical provider. As for the mail-order and door-to-door tests, avoid them at all costs; they are a scam. Only open the door for home health providers you already know and trust.
Staying at home and sheltering in place helps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The virus doesn’t move on its own; people move it.
Staying at home and sheltering in place helps to slow the spread of the coronavirus. The virus doesn’t move on its own; people move it. Therefore, the fewer people who are out and about, the less likely the virus is to be transmitted, the fewer people who will be infected, and the less likely the healthcare system is to be overwhelmed.
The metro Detroit area has been a coronavirus hot spot, and the healthcare system has been strained. It might make sense that the government would do everything possible to get people to stay at home, including a financial incentive. But it is not true. We have heard reports of emails promising cash incentives for people sheltering in place. Don’t buy it. These emails are likely to be “phishing” attempts designed to get you to reveal banking or other personal information or to embed malware on your computer.
If you get an email from an unknown source offering you money for sheltering in place or additional stimulus money, delete it and do not click on any links it contains. (For the record, the government doesn’t call it a stimulus, but refers to it as an “economic impact payment.”) And be very, very careful: many of these emails mimic the appearance of being from a legitimate government agency.
With something as unfamiliar and frightening as the coronavirus, it is natural to go looking for as much information as possible to protect yourself. Unfortunately, con artists know this, too, and they are way ahead of you. Many have snapped up domain names with “coronavirus” or “covid” in them, knowing that people may go to such sites looking for guidance.
The AARP reports that a cybersecurity firm called Check Point has stated that websites with those words in the domain name are fifty percent more likely than other domains to be malicious, spreading malware and generating emails like the ones described above.
We know you are doing everything possible to keep yourself and your loved ones safe from the coronavirus; we want to help protect you from dishonest people who are looking to profit from your reasonable concern. If you have more questions about coronavirus scams, we invite you to contact our law office.