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Thought we had seen the end of COVD-19 scams? Think again! Scammers are sending out text messages promoting participation in phony clinical studies. Don’t be tempted by the opportunity to help scientists while making extra cash. Make sure it’s the real thing before you sign up.

How the scam works

You receive an unsolicited message via text, email or a social media message. It explains that you may qualify for a COVID-19 study, which pays upwards of $1,000. One version received by BBB staff read: “Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to $1,220! Qualify Here: [link removed] stop2stop.”

No matter how curious you are — or how much you could use an extra $1,200 — don’t click. It’s a scam! The phony message includes a link to see whether or not you qualify for the study. If you click it, you could unknowingly download malware onto your computer or phone. This virus can give scammers access to your usernames, passwords and other personal information stored on your computer.

In other cases, the link may take you to a website that looks like a real clinical trial. You will be asked for personal information, such as government ID or bank account numbers. Real medical researchers would never ask for this information during the screening process!

How to 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.
  • Think the trial is real? 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.

For more information

Read more about clinic trial scams on the Federal Trade Commission website at www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/10/COVID-19-clinical-trial-real-or-fake-learn-how-tell-difference. Learn more about scams related to COVID-19 at BBB.org/Coronavirus.

If you’ve been a victim of this or another phishing scam, be sure to report it at BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others to spot a scam before it’s too late.

Better Business Bureau serving Canton Region and Greater West Virginia offers tips and advice for consumers to avoid fraudulent practices. Visit bbb.org/canton or call 330-454-9401 to look up a business, file a complaint, write a customer review, read tips and more.

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