COVID-19 scam alert

No Pandemic Shutdown for Scammers

COVID-19 may have shut down portions of the economy and put restrictions on Americans’ daily lives, but cyber scams and other efforts to defraud people continue to thrive.

Scammers are tapping into the uncertainty related to the global pandemic. They are using social engineering to target people with tactics that take advantage of today’s technology. Seniors need to be especially mindful of the mechanisms that have been explicitly designed to target people in retirement.

Some scams to be on the lookout for include:

  • Dishonest retailers.

    Many dishonest retailers and fake products are popping up. The shortage of toilet paper, hand sanitizer, soap, and masks at the beginning of the quarantine resulted from people’s panic, The fear of scarcity created a gateway for scammers. Fraudulent online retailers are showcasing these items as bait, especially medical supplies. But they don’t have any inventory, so stick with reputable stores. Scammers also try to sell products to prevent or cure COVID-19, even though they do not exist. Anyone who receives a message from someone selling any of these items should not respond.

  • Phony advertisements.

    Scammers also try to advertise hard-to-find products through social media, email or ads that pop up on certain sites. Avoid clicking on anything unfamiliar because cyber criminals may be trying to steal your personal information or infect your computer with a virus. Be cautious of people who try to contact you under odd usernames and do not have a profile picture. If anyone asks for your personal information or invites you to click on a link, block them immediately or report them as spam.

  • Government or organization disguises.

    Is a government official or someone from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or from the World Health Organization (WHO) trying to contact you? Maybe, but probably not. Scammers often try to convince potential victims that they are with a legitimate agency or group. For example, an email might claim that there have been new COVID-19 cases in your area and ask for your personal information to see if you have been in contact with anyone infected. Be suspicious of any COVID-19 related emails and use only official government websites to get information about the virus.

  • Fake charities and crowdfunding.

    Criminals have also created counterfeit charities and crowdfunding sites. They ask for money in the form of cash, gift cards, and wire transfers. Real charities will never use these resources. Be sure to use reputable sites and research the charities you want to donate to for coronavirus relief.

    charity scam

  • Phone scams.

    Phones are still the No. 1 way scammers target seniors, both through calls and text messages. The Federal Communications Commission warns about these methods being used by people who claim to be the IRS or have coronavirus treatments, at-home testing kits, and vaccinations. If you receive a robotic voice call, do not press any buttons or return any calls. Hang up immediately. If you receive text messages regarding this information, do not respond or click on any links.

It’s important to be wary of these and other scams, both off and online. The more conscious people are of how scammers are trying to trick them, the less likely they are to fall for one of those tricks.

Chris Orestis, known as the “Retirement Genius” (, is President of LifeCare Xchange and a nationally recognized healthcare expert and senior advocate. He has 25 years’ experience in the insurance and long-term care industries, and is credited with pioneering the Long-Term Care Life Settlement over a decade ago. Known as a political insider, Orestis is a former Washington, D.C., lobbyist who has worked in both the White House and for the Senate Majority Leader on Capitol Hill. Orestis is author of the books Help on the Way and A Survival Guide to Aging, and has been speaking for over a decade across the country about senior finance and the secrets to aging with physical and financial health. He is a frequent columnist for Broker World, ThinkAdvisor, IRIS, and NewsMax Finance, has been a featured guest on over 50 radio programs, and has appeared in The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, CNBC, NBC News, Fox News, USA Today, Kiplinger’s, Investor’s Business Daily, PBS, and numerous other media outlets.


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