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COVID-19 Scam Alert

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Difficult situations can bring out the best in people. It can also bring out the worst. Protect yourself from scammers trying to take advantage of your fears. Scammers are trying to take your money, get your personal or financial information, or ruin your computer and devices. Beware of fake websites, apps, phone calls and emails, and of false and misleading information on social media.

Examples of COVID-19 scams:

Economic Impact Payment (stimulus check) scams:  Everyone potentially eligible for the Economic Impact Payments should be aware of scams that try to steal personal information or try to take a percentage of the money for helping to get the payments. The IRS will not call, email or text about the Economic Impact Payment. The only official source of information about the Economic Impact Payment is at www.irs.gov.

.  Did a nursing home or assisted-living facility take your stimulus check? Do you or a loved one live in a nursing home or assisted living facility? Are you (or they) on Medicaid? If you said “yes” to both, be aware that some facilities are trying to take the stimulus payments intended for their residents on Medicaid. Then they’re requiring those people to sign over those funds to the facility saying that because the person is on Medicaid, the facility gets to keep the stimulus payment. Read more here.

Treatment scams: selling fake cures, vaccines and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19. There are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products to treat or cure COVID-19 in stores or online. When there is a medical breakthrough, you will hear about it on the news, not through an email, an online ad, or sales pitch.

Supply scams: fake shops, websites, social media accounts, and email addresses selling medical supplies like surgical masks. They will take your money and you will not get the items.

Provider scams: people pretending to be doctors or hospitals who treated your friend or family member for COVID-19 demanding that you pay them.

Charity scams: asking for donations for individual people, or groups or areas affected by COVID-19.

Phishing scams: emails from people pretending to be from national or global health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) trying to trick you into downloading malware or asking for your personal and financial information.

App scams: mobile apps that are supposed to track the spread of COVID-19 insert malware that will compromise your devices and personal information.

Investment scams: fake research reports or predictions about stocks that will go up because a company’s products or services can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19.

 

What you can do:

• Get your information from reliable sources. For the most up-to-date information on COVID-19, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and World Health Organization (WHO) websites. Stay alert:

• Be suspicious of emails offering information, supplies, or treatment of COVID-19.

• Be suspicious of emails asking for your personal information for medical reasons. Legitimate health organizations do not do this.

• Be very careful about investment opportunities tied to COVID-19, especially claims that a small company has products or services that can help stop the virus. If you want to invest, carefully research the investment before you do. Learn how to avoid investment fraud from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) website.

 

Do your homework:

• Check the identity of any company, charity or individual who contacts you about COVID-19.

• Carefully check the website and email addresses that offer information, products, or services related to COVID-19. There is often only a slight difference between the real and the fake ones. For example, the scammer may use “cdc.com” or “cdc.org” instead of the real “cdc.gov”

• Check online reviews of companies offering COVID-19 products or supplies. Do not buy from companies whose customers did not get the items they ordered.

• Check our charities and crowdfunding sites asking for donations for COVID-19. Scammers use words like “CDC” or “government” and have seals or logos that look real. Do not let anyone rush you into donating. To donate wisely, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website. Protect your computer and devices:

• Make sure your anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is working and is up-to-date.

• Do not click links or open email attachments from anyone you do not know and have not checked out to be real. You could download a virus onto your computer or device.

• Beware of mobile apps that are supposed to track the spread of COVID-19. They can insert malware that will compromise your devices and personal information.

 

More ways to protect yourself:

• Hang up on robo calls and do not press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing the number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their calling list. It might get you more robo calls instead.

• Ignore offers of COVID-19 vaccine, cure or treatment. Again, there are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products to treat or cure COVID-19 in stores or online. When there is a medical breakthrough, you will hear about it for the first time on the news, not through an email, an online ad, or sales pitch.

• Do not send money for payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, by gift card, or through the mail. Be suspicious of any business, charity or individual asking you to do that.

 

If you think you are the victim of a scam:

Contact your State Attorney General or the appropriate federal, state or local authority.

In New Hampshire, call the Attorney General’s consumer hotline: 1-888-468-4454 or 603-271-3658 or file a complaint.

You can file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission on a special web page set up for COVID-19-related scams.

Read more about COVID 19 scams from the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) and from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

Date: 
March 2020/updated July 2020
Author: 
Legal Services Corporation (LSC)/Legal Advice & Referral Center (LARC)

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