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Scammers taking advantage of vaccine hopes with fake COVID-19 studies

Everyone wants the COVID-19 pandemic to end and for our lives to get back to normal, but it’s going to take more than just a few lockdowns and social distancing. Right now, scientists across the world are racing to find effective vaccines and treatments — and many are just entering the testing phase.

This means that any websites promising miracle cures, treatments or vaccines are nothing but fakes. You can’t buy a vaccine online, let alone a miracle cure that can soothe COVID-19 symptoms. Tap or click here to see how to spot these scam sites.

But COVID-19 scam sites aren’t the only thing you need to worry about. With treatments and vaccines getting closer each day, scammers are running fake research trials to steal money from victims. Fortunately, there are a few ways you can tell fake trials apart from real ones. Here’s how.

Real science, fake trials

Any new medical treatment has to undergo rigorous testing before it’s ready for human consumption. And that’s exactly what’s happening in laboratories across the world — where scientists are just moving to human testing for COVID-19 vaccines and medicines.

Unfortunately, scammers are also aware of this fact. That’s why they’re tricking victims with fake COVID-19 trials designed to steal money and data.

The FTC has issued a warning about these fraudulent tests to help Americans protect themselves. According to the FTC, scammers are mostly using advertisements, emails and promotional materials to get in touch with victims and trap them. They’ll lure participants in with promises of $1,000 or more in payment — but once you go to sign up, you’ll be asked to pay for access.

And if you make the payment, you’ll be asked for information like your name, email address, phone number, Social Security number and bank account. Once you’re signed up, you’ll never get called back. They already got all the information they needed from you.

Tap or click here to see the vaccine email scams you need to be aware of.

How can I protect myself from fake clinical trials? What if I want to join a real one?

The FTC understands that many people would like to participate in research studies to do their part in finding a cure or treatment for COVID-19. That’s why it’s put together a guide to help Americans tell fake trials from real ones.

Here’s what you need to know if you see an ad for a COVID-19 trial:

  • Never pay to be part of a clinical trial, or to find out about one: Real clinical trials conducted by health professionals will never ask you to pay to participate.
  • Do your research: Look up the name of any trial you’re interested in online before joining. You should also pair it with the search terms “scam,” “review,” or “complaint” to see if others had negative experiences.
  • Legitimate clinical trials do gather information to find candidates: This means you will be asked personal questions relating to yourself and your health. Real trials will never ask for payment information or Social Security numbers.
  • Never share financial information: Legitimate trials will pay you to participate, and some will ask for bank account numbers so they can direct deposit your compensation. To protect yourself, we recommend asking for a check or payment card. If it’s a legitimate trial, they won’t refuse you.
  • Search for real trials: The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) operate ClinicalTrials.Gov, a free database of clinical studies. You can search the website to find more information on active trials — including whether or not they’re looking for participants.
  • If you want to volunteer for a real COVID-19 trial, you can sign up at the COVID-19 Prevention Network, a site run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health.

If you happened to fall for one of these scams, contact your bank or financial institution and let them know you may be at risk for fraud. If you shared your Social Security number, contact the major credit bureaus and request a credit freeze to be safe.

Tap or click here to see how to perform a credit freeze.

A viable treatment for COVID-19 will eventually arrive. Based on the data we have, it’s not a matter of if but when. We just have to wait patiently until that day. In the meantime, keep your eyes open and watch out for scams.

Unlike the virus, you can actually see them if you look close enough.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have regarding a medical condition, advice, or health objectives.

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