The Coronavirus outbreak is a global pandemic spreading fast causing panic among Americans as the outbreak kills more and more people each day. People are becoming wary of the severity and fear for their lives and the lives of others. Unfortunately, the chaos and disparity circulating the Coronavirus has caused people to fall victim to many scams which result in theft of money, identity and other personal information.

Common scams

Common scams include:

  • Price gouging;
  • Miracle health claims, cures and vaccines;
  • Vaccinations;
  • Knock-off products;
  • Phishing email links; and
  • Fake charities

Price gouging

Consumers are suffering from scams such as price gouging which is a predatory business practice. Price gouging is when companies excessively overcharge consumers for products during a time of high demand. Over the last week, the virus has caused panic buying which has led to elevated prices for toilet paper, hand sanitizer and other cleaning products. This has occurred in-store and online. Price gouging is illegal and consumers can report them to the Office of the Attorney General.

Miracle health claims, cures and vaccines

People spend billions of dollars each year on health products with quick promise cures that are not Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved or have any scientific evidence to back up their claims. This is also true for the Coronavirus. The FDA says there are no approved products currently available to treat or cure the virus. People who buy these products are cheated out of their money. Don’t fall for it. Ignore all online offers for the Coronavirus vaccinations. There are are no vaccines, pills, lozenges, prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure the virus online or in-store.

Knock-off products

If you are looking to buy a protective mask, be aware of knock-off N95 masks on the market. The proper N95 respirator mask protects against airborne particles and liquid that can contaminate the face. Similar to the fake products claiming to cure the virus, these knock-off masks act the same.

Phishing email links

Watch for emails or text messages claiming to be from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). Experts say scammers use bait such as claiming they have information about the virus, then trick you into giving them your personal information. They will try to steal passwords, account numbers or social security numbers which can give them access to your email, bank or other accounts.

Scammers follow the headlines and use language to catch your attention. Don’t click on any emails or text messages from sources you do not recognize. Phishing scams like these collect over $30 million each year.

Fake charities

People are taking advantage of this difficult time, by posing as charities looking to fund low-income families or feed hungry children whose parents cannot work due to the national shutdown. When you decide to support a cause you care about during the pandemic, do your research first. Below are common ways scammers will try to trick you during the Coronavirus outbreak:

  • Scammers change their caller ID to make the call look like a local area code;
  • They rush you into making a payment;
  • They thank you for a payment you never made;
  • Some scammers make sentimental claims but do not give specifics of how your donation will be used;
  • Bogus organizations claim that your donation is tax-deducible; or
  • Scammers often guarantee sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation, which is illegal.

Whether the world is experiencing a natural disaster or a health crisis, there will always be unethical people, companies and charities looking to make money and steal your personal information. Now is the time to stay vigilant and aware of the common scams amid the Coronavirus.

Lone Star Legal Aid is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit law firm focused on advocacy on behalf of low-income and underserved populations. Lone Star Legal Aid serves the millions of people at 125% of federal poverty guidelines that reside in 72 counties in the eastern and Gulf Coast regions of Texas, and 4 counties of southwest Arkansas. Lone Star Legal Aid focuses its resources on maintaining, enhancing, and protecting income and economic stability; preserving housing; improving outcomes for children; establishing and sustaining family safety and stability, health and well‐being; and assisting populations with special vulnerabilities, like those who have disabilities, or who are elderly, homeless, or have limited English language skills. To learn more about Lone Star Legal Aid, visit our website at www.lonestarlegal.org.

Media contact: Clarissa Ayala, cayala@lonestarlegal.org