LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WAVE) - One thing known about scammers is they follow the headlines, and the big headline around the world right now is COVID-19 vaccines.
Thousands of trials are underway as companies race to find effective vaccines and treatments for the virus. Many research studies are legitimate, but some are not, and the Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that scammers can sniff out a person’s desperation in an instant once they’ve got them on the hook.
“The scam artist come out of the woodwork for things like this,” Reanna Smith-Hamblin with the BBB said.
As many anxiously await the vaccine, Smith-Hamblin said scammers are taking advantage of that wait time and offering up ways to get a vaccine by telling people they can take part in clinical trials.
Bad actors are also offering hundreds or thousands of dollars to consumers to partake in fake trials.
Smith-Hamblin said consumers will likely see more false offers as coronavirus cases continue to skyrocket.
“Basically what happens you’ll get a text message, possibly an email, or a Facebook or social media message stating, ‘Hey, you could qualify for a clinical trial and make money doing it,’” Smith-Hamblin explained.
She also urges people to pay attention to any possible red flags. Those who haven’t inquired about a clinical trial that get a message about one should delete it.
Real clinical trials will never require payment by the participant or ask for a person’s social security number, Smith-Hamblin said.
“If you get the text, they will ask you to click on a link or download some type of document,” Smith-Hamblin said. “If you are downloading a document you could be putting malware on your computer. That’s a big problem. They are trying to take your information. If you click on a link, they might be fishing through your personal information.”
There are ways to trace what’s legit and what’s not. To find out if a clinical trial is legitimate, go to clinicaltrials.gov, which is a free searchable database of studies on a wide range of diseases. It also tracks if the clinical trial is actively recruiting participants and provide their contact information.
With clinical trials, the BBB reports that if there is no government agency, university, or hospital mentioned alongside its description or offer, it’s likely a scam.
Scammers are pretending to be contact tracers, too. If they ask for money, financial information or a social security number, consumers should be aware it is not legitimate.