Skip to content Skip to navigation

I-Team: COVID scams and how to protect yourself

WILKES-BARRE, LUZERNE COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) — As we enter into the second full week of 2021, the coronavirus continues to cast a long shadow over the nation. And with the pandemic, law enforcement is concerned about COVID-19 related scams.

Federal, state and local law enforcement officials are sounding the alarm about COVID scams and cons. They advise everyone to keep your guard up and be alert for scammers that target your money and your personal information.

"If you want to receive a free testing kit delivered overnight to your home, press 1," says a recorded robocall.

Law enforcement officials say that is a typical call from a scammer — a con artist trying to take advantage of people who may be distracted by coronavirus concerns. COVID-19 testing and vaccinations are among the most common scams being seen in recent weeks.

"Because of the circumstances, people are going to take advantage of other individuals because many people are waiting to get this vaccination. So there are going to be scams involved," said Luzerne County Detective Chaz Balogh.

Detective Balogh specializes in computer crimes as well as scams.

"Well certainly if people are receiving emails they should really verify the emails. If there are attachments, make sure you know it's a trusted person, somone you know before you open the attachment."

Detective Balogh says he is also receiving calls from residents who say they are receiving emails and calls from groups asking for money to receive COVID-19 related health services.

"You really shouldn't send any money for the mere fact that it's going to the place you want it to go. Make sure it's a legitimate business."

The Pennsylvania State Police also warn about a scam involving the second round of COVID-19 stimulus checks.

“People trying to, ‘Hey if you provide us with this information, we’ll be able to get your check faster to you.’ There’s no need to do that. The IRS has your information if you file taxes or you qualify for stimulus checks via direct deposit or paper check or last time I believe in a debit card,” said Trooper David Peters with PSP Hazleton.

Financial insitutions are warning consumers to beware of COVID-19 scams.

"We've seen a 300 to 400 percent increase in phishing attempts by these scammers," said Paul Benda, Sr. VP of Risk & Cybersecurity Policy with the American Bankers Association.

Phishing is a method of trying to trick a person into revealing personal information.

"These guys are really just trying to lure you into clicking on these links or providing confidential information so they can access your accounts," said Benda.

The United States Department of Justice says the top COVID-19 scams include...

Treatment scams — scammers selling fake cures or vaccines.Price gouging — businesses selling COVID-19 safety items at significantly higher prices than in non-emergency settings.Phishing scams — trying to obtain your personal information.

The Department of Justice offers tips on how to protect yourself from these scammers:

Independently verify the identity of any company, charity or individual that contacts you regarding COVID-19.Don't click on links or open emails from unknown or unverified sources. It could download a virus into your computer or device.Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software is updated.

Steve Bernas, president and ceo of the Better Business Bureau of Chicago says, "It's probably the worst types of scams I've seen. These scammers are heartless and relentless."

To report a suspected scam, you can use the following links:

PA Attorney GeneralFederal Trade Commission Department of Justice

If you have a story for the I-team, just call our I-team hotline at 570-706-7428.