IDAHO — As COVID-19 cases spike across the United States and here in Idaho, the race for a vaccine is on. Now, scammers are using that knowledge to try and steal your identity.
The Better Business Bureau reports scammers have been sending out unsolicited text messages to promote participation in phony clinical studies. The BBB's Rebecca Barr says scammers try to lure people in with a cash reward to help science and medical professionals.
Many victims report receiving the message through text, but it can also be sent through email or a social media message. A recent message sent to BBB staff read: "Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to $1,220! Qualify Here." If you receive a message like this, no matter how curious you are or how much you could use the extra cash, do not click on these types of links.
BBB says clicking on these links could lead to unknowingly downloading malware onto a computer or phone, giving scammers access to your usernames, passwords, and other personal information stored on your device. In other cases, the link could take you to a website that looks like a real clinical trial and asks you for personal info like an ID or bank account numbers. Real medical researchers would never ask for this information during the screening process.
For ways to protect yourself and your identity, remember these tips:
· Look up the domain. Use tools like whois.net or lookup.icann.org to look up the URL. Look for warning signs such as a very recent registration date or a registration in a foreign country.
· Think the trial is real? Find it on the official website. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) also maintain ClinicalTrials.gov, a free searchable database of clinical studies on a wide range of diseases. If there is no government agency, university, or hospital mentioned, it’s likely a scam.
· Be Careful What You Share. Legitimate clinical trials do gather personal information but not financial information. To screen for participants, a real study might ask for your name, contact information, age, gender, race, ethnicity, or various pre-existing medical conditions, but they should never ask you for information like your bank account details.
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