Local woman sounding the alarm about COVID scams

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GREENSBORO, N.C. — The pandemic has brought about struggles for so many families and unfortunately scammers are taking advantage of that.

Offering money in exchange for COVID-19 studies or flat out lying about products on sale on Facebook Marketplace.

A Reidsville woman is sounding the alarm after she tried buying a vehicle online.

She said while she was looking for a good deal, but there was one thing that stood out to her.

“The scammers really are trying to take advantage of the pandemic,” said Lechelle Yates, with the Better Business Bureau.

Pandemic scams started with false advertising for products like face masks and hand sanitizer. Since then, officials at the BBB said 80 percent of people reported falling victim to scams, compared to last year’s 20 percent.

“Scammers are definitely getting more creative with their story telling,” Yates said.

The story they told Joan Stanley of Reidsville…

“The description said that the person was in the Air Force and was being deployed and was in a rush move,” Stanley said.

She owns a farm, so she was looking for an all-terrain vehicle to help her get around. The one she found on Facebook Marketplace was listed at $1,200 — she thought it was a steal.

“if you look at the Polaris or the other Gators, $5,500, $7,200, almost $9,000 (in comparison),” she said.

She started communicating with the seller via email and was told she could put money down, then pay upon satisfaction.

“What was really interesting about this particular version of scam is that the scammer said ‘hey, let’s use eBay motors as protection so, they’ll hold the money until you get the vehicle,’” Yates said.

Stanley described it as the work of a professional salesmen.

“Misspellings, minimal. It was a very nice, professional letter and the process. If you really didn’t know eBay that well, it just seemed logical,” she said.

The catch? She had to put those payments on eBay gift cards in $200 increments.

Because she used to work at the BBB, she knew right then it was a scam.

She contacted her old office right away.

“When you see an item, whether it’s on social media or it’s something that one of your loved ones really wants, do your research. You have to research the product as well as the seller,” Yates said.

Now Stanley is using her almost mishap to warn others.

“Gift cards are for people, not for purchasing things. Just always remember that,” she said

Yates said if you ever want to verify a seller, you can always go to BBB.org to see what they know about them.

Another scam that’s been circulating asks you to participate in a COVID-19 study in exchange for cash.

This one is different because people have been receiving text messages directly to their phones or social media inboxes.

The message reads “Local Covid-19 Study” and offers $1,200 in compensation to be a part of it.

The link in the message can cause you to unknowingly download malware onto your device. It can even give scammers access to your passwords and personal info.

Yates said while many people want to help find a cure for COVID while making some extra money, it’s a scam.

She said between scams like this and ones pre-COVID, more people continue to lose money.

“Last year when people reported a scam, about 20 percent said they lost money. This time about 80 percent of people said they lost money,” Yates said.

If you think a case study is real, find the official website.

Sometimes the link they send you will seem legit then ask for your bank account information or government ID — real medical researchers will never ask that.

To confirm trials you can go to clinicaltrials.gov.

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