Scams & Fraud

If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is!

Whenever there is a health crisis, scammers quickly find ways to cheat people out of money. During the coronavirus pandemic, scammers are using robocalls, social media posts, and emails to take advantage of fear, anxiety, and confusion about COVID-19. Criminals are selling things that don’t work, charging money for things that are free, and stealing personal information.

A RED FLAG is a warning sign or signal that something might be a scam. Look out for these red flags to protect yourself, your family, and community from coronavirus scams.


How to get a COVID-19 vaccine
COVID-19 vaccines are being given to Los Angeles County residents at no cost and regardless of immigration status. Visit to find out when you can get vaccinated and how to make an appointment.

Keep on the lookout for these red flags, which could be a sign of a scam:

  • Being asked to pay out of pocket to receive the vaccine.
  • Being asked to pay to get your name on a list for a vaccine appointment, or to get early access. There is no special list to “cut the line” to get early access.
  • Receiving an offer to buy a vaccine, and have it sent to you directly. There are no “secret” sources of a vaccine that you can buy. Anything that is sent to you will not be a real vaccine.
  • Getting a call, text, or email offering you a vaccine if you respond immediately with your personal or financial information, such as your Social Security, bank account or credit card number, or insurance details.

Learn more about COVID-19 vaccine scams here.


WARNING: Dangerous hand sanitizer products!

Some hand sanitizers should not be used because they may:

  • Contain methanol (wood alcohol) or 1-propanol which can cause serious health problems such as blindness, nerve damage, and even death.
  • Be contaminated with germs.
  • Not have enough alcohol in them to work properly.


Since September of 2020 the FDA has advised consumers not to use over hundreds of different hand sanitizers made by more than 65 companies, many produced in other countries, but some produced in the US. Check the label on all your hand sanitizers. If the manufacturer’s name or product name is on this FDA list, stop using it immediately. Please view the FDA list for the latest information as it is updated often.

More Hand Sanitizer Safety Tips:

  • Do not swallow hand sanitizer.
  • Keep hand sanitizers out of the reach of children and supervise their use.
  • Avoid products that say “FDA-approved” on the label – there are no hand sanitizers approved by the FDA.
  • Seek immediate medical attention if you have swallowed hand sanitizer or are experiencing symptoms after repeated use of these products on your skin and contact your poison center (1-800-222-1222) for advice.
  • Symptoms include headache, blurred vision or blindness, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, confusion, loss of coordination, decreased alertness, slowed pulse and breathing, skin or eye irritation.
  • Only use alcohol-based hand sanitizers or rubs for their intended purpose – to clean hands.
  • For more information, see the FDA’s consumer warning letter which is available in English and Spanish.


You are asked to pay for a COVID-19 test
  • You should not have any out-of-pocket costs for a COVID-19 test. Both public and private medical insurance companies are required to cover the cost of COVID-19 testing and treatment without charging patients any copays. If you want to get tested because you feel sick or have been exposed to someone who has COVID-19, contact your doctor to request a test.
  • Testing for coronavirus is available for free to anyone in Los Angeles County, regardless of immigration status. If you are sick or concerned about COVID-19 talk to your doctor. If you need help finding a doctor, the 24/7 LA County information line can help - call 2-1-1 or visit the 211LA website. You can also get a free test by visiting
  • If you are uninsured, you can get free testing and treatment. You may also qualify for My Health LA (MHLA), a health care program for low-income LA County residents. Call (844) 744-6452 or visit MHLA’s website for more information. You can also call 2-1-1 for help finding healthcare.
You are told that getting an official test or treatment will affect your immigration status
  • Getting tested or treated for coronavirus or getting a COVID-19 vaccine will NOT affect your immigration status. COVID-19 testing and care services are not a public benefit under the public charge rule.
  • Your medical information is confidential. Your doctor is not allowed to share it with immigration officials.
  • For updates on COVID-19 for immigrant residents, visit the Los Angeles County Office of Immigrant Affairs COVID-19 page.
You are offered a blood test to see if you are currently infected with COVID-19
  • You may have heard about blood tests for COVID-19. These are known as serology or antibody tests. They can show if you have had COVID-19 infection in the past. Serology tests should not be used on their own to tell if you are currently infected with COVID-19. You need another test for that, such as a swab test.
  • Unfortunately there have been problems with serology tests and some of them are not reliable.
  • If the test is wrong, you may think that you have had COVID-19 in the past, when you actually haven’t. Even if the test is right, and it shows that you really do have antibodies, it is not yet known if you can get infected again or not.
  • If you are offered a COVID-19 blood test, ask questions, and make sure that your doctor explains what the test result does and does not mean. See our COVID-19 testing page to learn more about COVID-19 test results.
You are offered a test that claims to be “FDA approved”
  • Currently, there are no tests that have been approved by the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) to diagnose COVID-19. Some tests have an Emergency Use Authorization (EUA), but companies are not allowed to say that a test is FDA approved.
  • Learn about COVID-19 testing here.
You are sold a home test kit on the street or door-to-door
  • In one reported scam an imposter posed as an American Red Cross volunteer going door-to-door offering home COVID-19 testing. They were really trying to gain entry and rob residents.


You see advertisements and promotions for supplements and “treatments” to prevent or cure COVID-19
  • Vitamins or minerals or other dietary supplements have not been proven to prevent or cure COVID-19. In fact, the FDA has issued warning letters to many companies for selling products that claim to prevent, treat, or cure this infection.
  • Scammers sell fake vaccines or “miracle cures” and promote unproven treatments on the internet and social media. Buying questionable and untested products may cause serious harm and waste your money.
  • Always consult a doctor or other licensed healthcare provider before taking any medicine or health product. For help finding healthcare, call 2-1-1 or visit the 211 website.
You are asked to pay to enroll in a clinical trial
  • Scientists conduct clinical trials to find out if a vaccine or treatment is safe and effective. If you want to volunteer for a clinical trial on COVID-19 vaccines or treatment, you can get information on the COVID-19 Prevention Network (CoVPN) webpage.
  • Typically, people do not have to pay to take part in clinical trials. Expenses are covered as part of the clinical trial and researchers have to follow strict rules that include measures to protect the participants.
  • Visit this FDA webpage to learn more about clinical trials and check the DPH Guidance on Clinical Trials here.


You are asked to provide information or money before receiving a stimulus check or other government help
  • The government will NOT ask you to pay money in advance to receive your Federal stimulus check, unemployment insurance payment, or social security monthly payment.
  • The government will not ask for your social security number or credit card or bank information (such as your bank routing number).
  • The IRS or other government agencies will not contact you by email or telephone.
  • You do not need to pay for help to fill out paperwork.
  • A second stimulus package may be coming soon - watch out for scams. Just like last time, don’t pay to get a stimulus check, and keep your personal information to yourself.
  • Learn more here about how to avoid being scammed out of your stimulus check.
  • If you need help getting these benefits or finding resources, visit the Los Angeles County Disaster Help Center or call (833) 238-4450 to speak to a counselor.


You are overcharged for basics
  • It is illegal for businesses to raise their prices too much during and after the coronavirus health emergency. This is called price gouging, and it is a crime in California.
    • Price gouging is being asked to pay 10% or more above the usual price for essential goods and services, such as housing, food, and emergency supplies like water, flashlights, radios, batteries, blankets, soap, diapers, building materials and tools, repair and reconstruction services, and medical supplies like medications, bandages, and antibacterial products.
    • To report price gouging and get help recovering your money, visit the Los Angeles County price gouging webpage.


You are offered help with errands and deliveries while you are at home during COVID-19

Scammers are offering to help with errands and running off with your money.

  • Have essential supplies like food and medicines delivered to you by a trusted friend or neighbor, arrange for delivery with a well-known company, or use one of the free services below.
  • Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning and medical supplies when they really don’t. Order directly from the store or pharmacy, and ask about free delivery.
  • Several programs are delivering free meals daily. Enroll in LA County’s Great Plates Delivered Program, or the City’s Senior Meals Program online or by calling (800) 510-2020.
  • Find out about options in your area by visiting the Public Health resource page or 211LA, or calling 2-1-1.
You are offered a list of available jobs - for a price
  • Don’t pay for job "opportunities". Scammers know a lot of people are looking for work now. They take advantage of your need, and try to cheat you out of your money. They may call or text you or use online advertisements promising ways to earn money online or work from home schemes.
  • Do your research before you sign up - and don't pay for the chance to work.
You are offered mortgage or rent relief – for a price
  • Never pay up front for mortgage help. It's illegal for companies to charge you before they help you with your mortgage - but that doesn't stop scammers from trying.
  • If you have fallen behind on your mortgage, get help for free from LA County's Department of Consumer and Business Affairs. Check out their Foreclosure Prevention services here.
  • If you are a renter and need help paying your rent, find out about LA County's 2021 Rent Relief Program here.
  • If you are unable to pay your mortgage or rent and think you might be at risk of foreclosure or eviction, you can get legal assistance for free at LA Represents. They provide help to anyone in Los Angeles who is facing extreme hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic.


Many people want to help others in the community who are suffering and may have lost their jobs due to coronavirus. Unfortunately, people who want to help can be taken advantage of by crafty scammers.
You are asked to contribute to a fake charity
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations.
  • Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation or pressure you to donate via wire transfer or cash.
  • Check if the charity is legitimate before making a donation. If you are not sure, you can search the CA Attorney General’s Registry of Charitable Trusts.
  • Get additional tips on donating wisely at


Scammers are using the COVID-19 pandemic to try to steal insurance numbers, personal information, and money. If anyone contacts you asking for your insurance number, Social Security number, or other personal information in exchange for something, it’s most likely a scam.

Older adults are especially vulnerable because scammers take advantage of their loneliness, ease of trust, savings, and challenges with technology. Senior Living explains the latest COVID-19 scams aimed at older adults and offers some ideas about how to prevent them, as well as tips for senior-friendly technology.  The California’s Department of Aging has information on many issues faced by older Californians including warnings about scams. You can also sign up for Fraud Watch emails from the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP).

You are asked to provide personal information without explanation
  • Never provide personally identifiable information such as your medical insurance, social security, bank account, or credit card number, over the telephone or by email or text or in response to an unsolicited (uninvited or unknown) contact.
  • Guard your Medicare or Medi-Cal card. Learn about medical identity theft here

Remember, government agencies will:

  • Never contact you for your number or other personal information unless you’ve given them permission in advance.
  • Never call you to sell you anything.
  • Never visit you at your home.
  • Medicare and Medi-Cal can’t enroll you over the phone unless you called them first.

Check information from your health insurance company, Medi-Cal, or Medicare for signs of billing fraud. Review your explanation of benefits, claims statements, and summary notices for any services that you don’t recognize.

Here are a few more tips to prevent Medicare fraud.

There have been many reports of COVID-19 scams involving Social Security.

  • Know that Social Security benefit payments will NOT be put on hold or stopped because of COVID-19 office closures.
  • Ignore any calls, letters, emails, or texts offering to increase your benefits if you provide a payment. Social Security will NEVER offer a benefit increase in exchange for payment.

Visit the Social Security Administration’s website for updates about coronavirus scams.

  • Telemedicine: if someone contacts you about having a doctor’s appointment over the internet, be cautious. Call your insurance company or your health care provider to find out about telemedicine options (such as phone or video calls) to talk with your doctor.


You get robocalls and emails from a “government agency”
  • Protect yourself. Do not click on links or respond to an e-mail or text that you do not recognize. They may be promoting scams or contain viruses or malware that can damage your computer or steal your information.
Contact tracing scams
  • People pretending they are doing contact tracing for COVID-19 may call, visit, write, or email and try to get information or money from you. It's a scam!
  • The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health is calling, emailing and writing to people who have COVID-19 and people who they may have been in contact with, but rest assured they will NEVER request a social security number or financial information, or ask for money. They will never ask about immigration status.
  • Calls from Public Health will show “LA PublicHealth” or 1-833-641-0305 on the caller ID.  If you get a call or a message from Public Health, please respond or call back to help us to control the spread of COVID-19 in Los Angeles County.


Get Help
  • Find a doctor: call 2-1-1 the LA County information line or visit the 211LA website.
  • Find resources like food, medicines, and other essential supplies: call 2-1-1, visit the 211LA website, or the Public Health resource page and view the options in the “helpers” section.
  • Call the Disaster Help Center: Multiple county and state agencies have partnered to create the Disaster Help Center to assist business owners, workers, non-profits, landlords, and renters access important resources during the COVID-19 emergency. Counselors are available by phone 8:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturdays, to help you find the resources right for your situation. Counselors speak your preferred language: we can help you in English, Spanish, Armenian, Korean, Cantonese, Mandarin, Farsi, and Russian.
  • Contact the Help Center: Call: (833) 238-4450, Visit:, or Email:
Report a Scam!
  • Report a possible COVID-19 scam and get help trying to get your money back: contact the LA County Department of Consumer and Business Affairs: or (800) 593-8222.
  • Report suspicious claims being made about testing or treatment products: report to the FTC at


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