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Scammers Use Bogus COVID Vaccine Trial to Steal Data

The Better Business Bureau is warning the public about a new scam that promises access to novel coronavirus vaccine trials in an effort to steal the personal and financial information of victims.

by Simone Jasper, The News & Observer / November 9, 2020
Shutterstock/creativeneko

(TNS) — Beware of bogus messages about clinical trials during the coronavirus pandemic, officials warn.

The fake messages sent through text, email or social media claim recipients may be eligible to help researchers study COVID-19, the Better Business Bureau said last week in a news release.

Though there are real clinical trials out there, experts warn it's best to be cautious.

"Preying on our natural desire to help others, scammers have created fake websites and promotional materials, posing as legitimate researchers," the Federal Trade Commission said in October. "Their goal? To take your personal information and your money."

So, how do you spot a scheme?

In one version of the scam that the BBB reported, recipients receive a message directing them to a website that asks for identifying information. Scammers also may share a link in a text message that claims a clinical trial is paying participants, according to consumer experts.

"If you click it, you could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or phone," the BBB said. "This virus can give scammers access to your usernames, passwords, and other personal information stored on your computer."

The alerts come as researchers are examining ways to treat and vaccinate against the coronavirus.

To protect yourself from scammers, experts urge people to look up COVID-19 studies directly on the websites of trusted organizations or ClinicalTrials.gov. It's also recommended to "do an online search before you join, with the name of the clinical trial and the words 'scam,' 'review,' or 'complaint,'" the FTC said.

Officials say researchers won't ask you to give them money, bank account information or your Social Security Number. Screening questions will normally ask for a participant's name, gender, age and health conditions, according to the FTC.

If you see a scam, it can be reported to bbb.org/scamtracker or reportfraud.ftc.gov.

©2020 The News & Observer, Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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