Scammers Tackle Coronavirus Fears By Offering Masks, Emergency Loans, Government Checks

CLEVELAND, Ohio – The novel coronavirus has created an environment that crooks are taking hold of, from selling medical masks and vaccines that don’t exist to offering emergency interest-free loans.

“It’s crooks’ paradise right now,” said Sue McConnell, president of the Cleveland Better Business Bureau. “The fact that many of us are worried, isolated, confronted with a disease that threatens us all, and that it is happening on a global scale has created fertile ground for fraud.”

Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost is worried about an upsurge in scams as fraudsters try to take advantage of this crisis. “COVID-19 is not the only thing we need to protect ourselves from,” Yost said. “Thieves and con artists feed on fear and uncertainty.”

Authorities, from the Ohio Attorney General to the Ohio Bankers League, the U.S. Secret Service and the Federal Communications Commission, are hearing reports of outrageous and heartbreaking efforts to scam innocent consumers. New patterns are emerging every day.

As always, consumers and businesses are urged to avoid answering unexpected phone calls or responding to unexpected emails or texts. And if you do, don’t give out or confirm any personal information, click any links, or send money to someone you’ve never met before.

Here is a compilation of some of the reported scams:

SMS promising emergency money to help cover daily expenses. This scam exists in cities like Columbus. The link can compromise the security of your mobile phone or computer.

Emails pretending to be the Center for Disease Control or the World Health Organization or other entities. The emails falsely promise important information to fight the virus or products in short supply. Opening an attachment or clicking on links can infect your computer with malware and compromise your passwords on financial websites or other important sites.

Efforts through Facebook, Twitter and other social media sites are seeking donations for charitable causes related to the coronavirus. Consumers should be extremely careful when considering donations. And never, ever buy iTunes gift cards or any other type of gift card and give them over the phone or to a stranger in person. Individuals can search for registered charities and nonprofits through a database at the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and the BBB Wise Giving Alliance website, People should also research any crowdfunding effort.

Calls or emails or text messages promising to sell you medical masks, hand sanitizer, or other protective products. Scammers ask for upfront payments or deposits. The products are never sent. The Cleveland BBB reports a company called “Juicy Trends” claiming to sell protective masks called “SafeBreath95”. The website was registered from the Bahamas. The company says it is based in Scotland. He was selling three face masks for $ 195.

Door-to-door coronavirus testers are reported to the BBB. Fraudsters collect money and offer to test the victim for coronavirus. “This method of testing is not legitimate,” the BBB said. “Do not give your personal or medical information to someone who has solicited you or who has allowed strangers to enter your home.” The attorney general’s office said people should call law enforcement immediately if you see a suspicious person or a fraudster shows up on your doorstep.

Calls or text messages claiming to be from a representative of a gas or electricity company or other utility. Calls say the household needs to get a new meter because of the coronavirus. Of course, there is a cost of $ 300 or $ 600. But there is no counter. There is nothing like it.

Offers of “all-natural and secret vaccines”. There is currently no vaccine or drug approved by the United States Food and Drug Administration to prevent the coronavirus. Do not hand over your money or your credit or debit cards to anyone who makes these claims. The Federal Trade Commission has published warning letters to several companies that claim to have a product to cure or prevent the virus.

Unexpected calls from fraudsters claiming to be from your bank or government agency. If this happens, hang up. If you think the call might be legitimate, call the office phone number you are looking for independently.

Unexpected emails from your company or video conference invitations from colleagues. With so many people working from home and communicating via email and video conferencing, scammers are sending out requests that seem legitimate but aren’t.

There are three main things people can do to protect themselves:

If you are contacted by someone you don’t know or expected to hear, don’t click on links, return phone messages, provide any personal information, or even confirm your name.

If you are contacted by a company, check if the entity has a working customer service number, profile on BBB, actual mailing address, etc.

If you see an ad online, email, or text, watch out for stock photos. Many scams reuse photos of masks, gloves, or drugs. If the same image is used on many different websites, consumers should be wary. Consumers can use websites like and image search on Google. and click on the small camera icon. For more information,

For more information or to report a scam, visit: or call 800-282-0515.

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