During the global COVID-19 Pandemic, law enforcement agencies across the country have seen an increase in scam activity relating to COVID-19. Scammers are taking advantage of residents--especially within vulnerable populations--who are dealing with uncertainty and large amounts of new incoming information.
Residents are urged to remain vigilant if they receive calls from unrecognized numbers, get unexpected emails with unknown links, or come into contact with any individuals claiming to offer special access to things like at-home COVID-19 test kits, paid vaccinations, or other products relating to COVID-19.
Contact Tracing Scams
Please be aware that the Peoria City/County Health Department and Health Departments throughout the State of Illinois are utilizing Contact Tracers to reach residents who may have come into contact with a COVID-positive individual. Contact Tracers may try to call you from an unrecognizable or non-local phone number.
While spotting the differences between a legitimate Contact Tracing call and a scammer may be difficult, there are a few important things to note:
- Contact Tracers will not ask for payment or financial information.
- Contact Tracers will not ask for your Social Security number.
- Contact Tracers do not need--and will not ask for--your immigration status.
- Contact Tracers may ask for your name and address, health information, and the names of places you have visited or people you have come into contact with. This is to help you, your family members, and your close contacts make a plan to self-isolate or quarantine as needed to help prevent the spread of the virus.
The Federal Trade Commission has set up a system for reporting fake Contact Tracers. If you have received a suspicious call and would like to fill out a report, visit www.ftc.gov/complaint.
COVID-19 Vaccine Scams
As more information is released regarding COVID-19 Vaccines, scammers are taking advantage of the constantly changing news. The FTC has provided some useful tips to help avoid a vaccine-related scam:
- Do not pay to sign up for the vaccine. Anyone who asks for payment to put you on a list, or payment to reserve a spot in line is a scammer.
- Ignore sales-type ads for the COVID-19 vaccine. You cannot buy the COVID-19 vaccine anywhere. The vaccine is only available from federal and state-approved locations.
- Be cautious of unexpected or unusual text messages and emails. Your healthcare provider or pharmacy may use text messaging or email to contact you regarding the vaccine. If you get a text or an email from your healthcare provider and are not sure of its legitimacy, contact your healthcare provider's office to verify. Be aware that scammers are using text and email to trick people, too--so if you aren't 100% sure, don't click on any links without verifying.
- Don't share your personal, financial, or health information. No one from a vaccine clinic, Health Department, healthcare provider's office, pharmacy, or insurance company will call, text, or email you asking for your Social Security number, credit card number, or banking information.
Other Types of COVID-19-Related Scams
- COVID-19 Home Testing Kits - There is not currently an approved COVID-19 Home Testing Kit available. If you receive a call from someone offering to sell you an At-Home Test Kit, hang up immediately and do not give them any of your personal or financial information.
- Coronavirus "Cures" or Treatments - Fake businesses and organizations may try to contact you with a "miracle cure" or treatment for COVID-19. If you have tested positive for COVID-19, you should only discuss your treatment with your trusted primary care physician. Do not give personal, financial, or medical information over the phone to someone trying to sell you any sort of "treatment" or product.
- Fake Phishing Emails from the CDC or WHO - Be cautious of any emails you receive with unknown links. Scammers are sending fraudulent emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), and other agencies. These emails are claiming to be from "experts" saying they have information about the virus. If you are looking for reliable sources of information, visit websites directly instead of clicking on links from emails. Information about COVID-19 can be found from the following agencies:
- Fraudulent Donations - Scammers have been posing as fake organizations claiming to seek donations for non-existent charities. Crowdfunding websites have also become a popular way for scammers to trick well-meaning people into giving money to a fraudulent cause. If you are in a position to donate, be sure to research the organization before pledging any money, clicking on any donation links, or giving any information over the phone. It is best to reach out to your favorite nonprofit organization directly if you are wanting to make a donation to their cause. If someone is pressuring you or rushing you to make a donation, hang up the phone immediately. Anyone asking for donations in the form of "cash only," gift cards, or wiring money is likely a scammer.