Scammers can use links in text messages to install malicious code on your phone or launch a phony webpage to collect personal, health insurance, or financial information for use in other scams. COVID-19 text message scams offer cures, warnings about the need for a test, or "special offers." Do not click on links in texts related to the virus, and check cdc.gov/coronavirus for the most current information.
The FTC has posted an alert about a COVID-19 vaccines scam survey. People have reported getting emails and text messages asking them to complete a limited-time survey about the Pfizer, Moderna, or AstraZeneca vaccine in exchange for a "free reward," for which they're asked to pay shipping fees. Do NOT respond to any such message and don't click any links. This is a scam. There's no survey and no reward.
Other text scams are impersonating government agencies. The FCC has learned of a text scam claiming to be from the "FCC Financial Care Center" and falsely offering $30,000 in COVID-19 relief. The text is likely a phishing attempt to get banking or other personal information from its victims.
The Better Business Bureau is warning of a text message scam impersonating the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Recipients are told they must take a "mandatory online COVID-19 test" using a provided link.
Another government imposter text begins with "IRS COVID-19 News" and includes a link and instructions for recipients "to register/update your information in order to receive the economic impact payment regardless of your status." The link points to a website designed to look like the IRS's and requests identifying information, including date of birth, social security number and filing status. Ultimately, it requests a debit or credit card number to "verify your identity."
The FCC has also learned of other bogus consumer offers with coronavirus hooks, such as a text scam offering five months of free Netflix service. If you receive a suspicious text purportedly from Netflix, the company has a webpage with instructions for what to do.
If you think you've been a victim of a coronavirus scam, contact law enforcement immediately.
The FCC offers the following tips to help you protect yourself from scams, including coronavirus scams:
- Do not respond to calls or texts from unknown numbers, or any others that appear suspicious.
- Never share your personal or financial information via email, text messages, or over the phone.
- Be cautious if you’re being pressured to share any information or make a payment immediately.
- Scammers often spoof phone numbers to trick you into answering or responding. Remember that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money.
- Do not click any links in a text message. If a friend sends you a text with a suspicious link that seems out of character, call them to make sure they weren't hacked.
- Always check on a charity (for example, by calling or looking at its actual website) before donating. (Learn more about charity scams.)
File coronavirus scam complaints online with the Federal Trade Commission.