March 31, 2020

Contact: Sara Diedrich, 573-882-3243, diedrichs@missouri.edu

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has issued a warning about new schemes to defraud the public during the COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers are taking advantage of this unprecedented situation by setting up websites, contacting people by phone and email and posting false information on social media.

The University of Missouri Police Department has not received any reports of scams but wants to alert the campus community to the types of frauds linked to the coronavirus:

  • Testing scams: Individuals selling fake at-home test kits or going door-to-door performing fake tests for money.
  • Treatment scams: Individuals offering to sell fake cures, vaccines and advice on unproven treatments for COVID-19.
  • Supply scams: Individuals creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses that claim to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
  • Provider scams: Individuals contacting people by phone/email and pretending to be doctors or medical personnel who have treated a friend or relative for COVID-19. Then, they demand payment for that treatment.
  • Charity scams: Individuals soliciting donations for individuals, groups and areas affected by COVID-19.
  • Phishing scams: Individuals, who claim to be national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.
  • App scams: Individuals creating and manipulating mobile apps designed to track the spread of COVID-19 to insert malware that will compromise users’ devices and personal information.
  • Investment scams: Individuals offering online promotions  claiming that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19, and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result. These promotions are often styled as “research reports,” make predictions of a specific “target price,” and relate to microcap stocks, or low-priced stocks issued by the smallest of companies with limited publicly available information.

“In general, if an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is,” said MUPD Crime Prevention Officer James Young. “If you question the legitimacy of an email or posting, don't click on it.”

Here are some other tips to stay safe:

  • Beware of scams that claim to be the CDC, offering new and updated information or online offers of medicines to ease symptoms or cure the virus. There are no vaccines, pills, potions or other “miracle” drugs at this time, according to the CDC. To get up-to-date and accurate information, visit the CDC or the WHO.
  • Stay away from charities that make contact by phone or online for a donation, even those claiming to represent a well-known organization. No legitimate, charitable organization will ask for donations in the form of cash, gift cards or by wire. Research before making a donation. To learn more about a charity, visit Charity Navigator.
  • Avoid responding to unsolicited texts or phone calls.

If you think you’ve been scammed, contact MUPD at 573-882-7201 or call the Missouri Attorney General’s Office Consumer Protection Hotline at 1-800-392-8222 or submit a standard consumer complaint form at ago.mo.gov. Reports can be made to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center by visiting www.IC3.gov. If there’s an immediate danger, call 9-1-1.