How to avoid getting ripped off by COVID scams

CHICAGO (WLS) -- COVID-19 related scams are costing Americans millions, according to recent data.

More than $588 million gone! The number is staggering.

That's how much Americans lost to COVID-19 related scams according to Federal Trade Commission data since the beginning of 2020.

RELATED: Scammers targeting people who've received COVID-19 vaccine

The cybersecurity group BrandShield said beware of any website, social media page, or ad asking for upfront payment for the vaccine. That's a scam because the vaccine is free.

Don't click on any links within suspicious emails, texts, and social media direct messages, as many of those are using pandemic fears to prey on people.

If you have an upcoming booking for a flight or hotel, and you receive an email or text telling you that it has been canceled due to COVID -- also beware. It could be a scam asking you to provide financial details so that you can get a refund.

RELATED: Biggest scams targeting your wallet

When in doubt, always go directly to company websites.

Cybercriminals have fake websites selling vaccines. There are fake post-vaccine surveys, forged emails from travel companies asking for personal information in order to give refunds for COVID-related cancellations and even crazy products for sale, such as "vaccine hard seltzers."

What to look out for to avoid falling prey:



  • The vaccine is free in the United States so any website, social media page, or ad asking for upfront payment for the vaccine is a scam.

  • As we start to talk about when booster shots will become available, this trend of scammers looking for payment for the vaccine will likely arise again.

  • In the US, a national vaccination verification does not exist, so any emails, texts, or social media ads asking for your personal information in order to get a national vaccine certificate or passport is a scam.

  • If you have an upcoming booking for a flight or hotel and you receive an email or text telling you that it has been canceled and you'll need to provide financial details so that you can get a refund, it's likely a scam.

  • It is best to go to the official website of the airline or hotel (without clicking on any links within the cancellation text/email) and call them directly to verify the message's authenticity.

  • Avoid purchasing COVID medicines from online marketplaces. Instead, stick to official medical channels to make sure that you are not being sold something that may be unsafe.

  • Make sure to check the domain name of a website (EX: www.xyz.com) carefully when sharing any personal or financial information online. Often scammers will set up 'look-a-like' websites that look very similar to the authentic ones, but have a domain name that is one or a few letters off.
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