How To Protect Yourself from Scams During The COVID-19 Pandemic

In the midst of a global pandemic, there’s a lot to keep track of. Whether it’s food in the fridge, toilet paper on the holder or even the security of your job, it’s not hard to get sucked up into the whirlwind that millions of people around the world are facing.

Luckily, there are good people out there trying to make a positive impact like 7-year-old Zohaib Begg who has collected thousands of face masks, caps and gloves to donate to local hospitals. There are also those looking to take advantage of the situation and add to the cyclone of confusion and strife.

While the current COVID-19 pandemic has shown the brighter side of humanity, there are those who are more likely to take advantage of the disarray instead of lending a helping hand.

Now is the time scammers are active, seeking to capitalize on a global crisis.

With the passing of the $2 trillion CARES Act, or the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, alongside an unprecedented spike in unemployment, government organizations are struggling to keep up, and it could be a long time before stimulus checks hit your bank account.

The U.S. Small Business Administration will also be launching a business lending program, but it could be a rough launch, meaning struggling small businesses might not get the help they need right off the bat. Now, more than ever, it’s important to be vigilant in protecting your finances and your personal information from potential scammers.

Whether you’re a single adult, college student, family or small business owner, protecting your assets should be on your list of things to keep an eye on. 

Here are some helpful tips for you and your family to follow to avoid COVID-19 scams:

Beware Of Convincing Messages

There’s a wave of fraudulent emails with subject lines about COVID-19 that look like they’re from legit companies, banks, credit unions, and even the CDC and World Health Organization. Don’t be fooled. This is phishing, which is the practice of sending emails pretending to be reputable organizations for the purpose of gathering information for nefarious purposes.

Think actual fishing, but instead of fish, you are on the hook while a scammer is holding the rod.

Scammers are looking for your personal information, account numbers, PINs, social security numbers, PayPal or anything that’s linked to your personal information. If an email is asking you to put in information, don’t. It’s a good chance it’s a scam. Organizations would never request personal information via email or phone.

Additionally, the stimulus check will be directly deposited into your bank account if you have an account on file with the IRS, so any email asking for your financial information is a scam.

File a complaint to the FBI if you come across any COVID-19-related scams using the Internet Complaint Center tool.

Don’t Click Unknown Links

Never open attachments or click on links within unsolicited emails. The same holds true for suspicious texts and social posts. If the link is filled with a URL that looks off, there’s a good chance it isn’t legit. 

Be Cautious of GoFundMe

As millions of Americans are losing their jobs, GoFundMes are popping up to raise money for those experiencing financial strife. Those with the money to donate may jump at the chance, but be cautious of GoFundMe scams. These fraudulent fundraisers have grown since the pandemic, so an extra layer of caution is required. 

Yelp recently published automatic GoFundMes for small businesses registered in Yelp. While the intention was good, there was no way easy way to opt out, which caused headaches for businesses that did not want fundraising. Business owners were required to opt in before opting out, which required personal and business information, something that was a turnoff for some.


Yelp recently paused fundraising, but this situation sheds light on potential fraud that may occur through GoFundMe.

Avoid Cures Or Test Kits For Sale

There are no vaccinations for COVID-19 at this time. Any medical treatments that get FDA approval will be administered by healthcare professionals, so don’t fall for any current phone, email solicitations online solicitations that are selling a “cure.”

This also applies to test kits as well. Some companies have taken to selling “test kits” for nearly $50 and may claim the kits are approved by the FDA and the CDC. Don’t fall into the trap of ordering these kits. Any and all test kits will be provided by and administered by licensed medical professionals, not third-party companies.

Trust the Experts

For the latest health information on the Coronavirus, always rely on trusted government sources, like the CDC. Be wary of fraudulent and spoof websites offering advice and remedies for COVID-19. Check for a padlock to the left of the site’s URL. If there is one present, that means the site is secure. It doesn’t mean the site provides accurate information, so use your best judgment when searching for information. Also, check the end of the URL for .gov or .org. This is usually a good indicator of whether the site is trustworthy.

Contact your credit union for more tips on keeping your finances secure. Your credit union can provide resources and personalized financial plans in case you are experiencing financial troubles during the pandemic. Visit bayareacreditunions.com/coronavirus-response/ for additional information regarding BACU member credit unions and the changes they are implementing during this time.