Financial Advice

Top 10 Ways to Evade Fraudsters during a Crisis

Not everyone responds to a crisis with kindness. Learn about three common scams and ten ways you can protect yourself.

Published May 26, 2020 | Updated May 8, 2024

Times of trouble bring out a heartwarming generosity of spirit in most people. However, not everyone responds to a crisis with kindness. The fear, confusion, and social isolation we are living through can make us vulnerable. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported receiving over 23,800 fraud complaints related to COVID-19 as of May 12, 2020.

Most scammers are after either your money or your personal information. Through robocalls, phishing emails, and texts, they try to scare you into divulging your personal information, lure you into clicking links to fake websites, or trick you into opening email attachments embedded with malware that can corrupt your computer — all in an attempt to gain your social security number, credit card details, or passwords for online accounts. Other crooks try to convince you to send them money directly by posing as a government entity, charity, or a loved one in need. Still others offer fake or inadequate products or services.

During the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic in particular, be on the alert for the following common scams:

  • Economic Support Scams — Scammers target individuals expecting an economic-impact payment or businesses awaiting Paycheck Protection Program funds. Watch out for emails, texts, or calls asking for personal or financial information that use the term “stimulus” (the official term is "economic-impact payment") or claim to be from government agencies, financial institutions, or the US Small Business Administration (SBA). Also be wary of offers to speed access to funds for a fee or bogus programs promising to help with bills, credit card debt, or student loans.

  • Employment or Work-from-Home Scams — Watch out for phony work-from-home jobs, especially if no interview is required. Some of these scams impersonate real companies. After pretending to hire you, the scammer may try to charge you for training, equipment, or supplies, ask for your personal information for a background or credit check or to set up direct deposit, or pretend to overpay you with a fake check and then ask you to deposit the check and wire back the difference. Be cautious of any unexpected calls or emails offering IT support or claiming there is a problem with a company-issued computer. It could be a scammer trying to gain remote access to your computer.

  • Health and Aid Scams — Tricksters prey on our fears about COVID-19, and offer phony cures, fraudulent testing, and non-existent or substandard medical supplies. There are many bogus websites posing as government agencies or charities. Landing on those sites could trigger phishing emails or open the door to malware being planted on your computer. Be wary of anyone seeking investments in companies for products that can prevent, detect, or cure COVID-19, and distrust anyone claiming to come from the government, the World Health Organization (WHO), or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Keeping up with the latest scams can be daunting, but there are resources to help you make sense of it all. For example, the FTC posts a bingo card on its website that gives a snapshot of Coronavirus-related scams. Keep these top of mind, and remember these ten ways you can protect yourself:

  1. Only rely on information that comes directly from official websites of credible sources like the CDC, WHO, SBA, and Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

  2. Regularly check your accounts for unauthorized activity.

  3. Hang up on robocalls.

  4. Don’t respond to texts, emails, or calls claiming to be a government or international agency.

  5. Don't share personal information, click links, or download attachments from unfamiliar websites or in response to unexpected emails or texts, even if the sender seems familiar.

  6. Research charities before donating. Never donate to a charity in cash, by gift card, or by transferring money.

  7. Research products, comparison shop (especially when prices seem unusually high), and report price gouging to your state’s attorney general.

  8. Ignore calls, emails, texts, and websites promising cures or urging you to invest in a hot new stock.

  9. Beware of job offers that sound too good to be true. Research the company or person offering employment.

  10. Report any scams to the FTC at