As the nation deals with a surging pandemic, scammers look to take advantage of the situation for their own benefit.  Recent scams deal with fake COVID-19 clinical studies.

According to the Better Business Bureau, one scam starts when you receive an unsolicited text, email, or social media message claiming that you may qualify for a COVID-19 study.  Even more intriguing, this study supposedly pays you around $1,000.  One such message reads: “Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to $1,220! Qualify Here: [link removed] stop2stop.” 

Of course, there is a link that you must click to determine if you qualify for the study and the money. When that link is clicked, you could be downloading malware onto your computer or phone that could be used to obtain your usernames, passwords and other personal information.

Another version of a COVID-19 clinical study scam takes you to a convincing looking website.  Once there, you will be asked to provide personal information, such as bank account numbers or your drivers license number.  The Better Business Bureau says that real medical researchers never ask for such information during a screening process.

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The bottom is that you should never provide personal information online and never click on links that are sent to you from an unknown source or when they arrive unsolicited.

Here are additional BBB tips to help avoid clinical trial scams:

  • Look up the domain. Use lookup.icann.org to look up the URL. Look for warning signs such as a very recent registration date or registration in a foreign country.
  • Even if the trial looks real, double check and find it on the official website. If you receive a message about a study and want to confirm whether it’s true, go directly to (or do a web search for) the organization’s website for further information. 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.
  • Never pay to be part of a clinical trial. Real clinical trials will never ask you to pay them.
  • Legitimate clinical trials do gather information about candidates – 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.

There are legitimate trials out there, but you need to do your homework and double check before moving forward.