How to spot scammers running fake COVID-19 trials

For those thinking of volunteering for a COVID-19 medical trial, the Federal Trade Commission warned not all trials have your best interest at heart.

There are thousands of trials and studies underway with the goal of developing a treatment or vaccine for the coronavirus. But in a news release Friday, the commission said some studies are more interested in taking your money and personal information than they are in developing a COVID treatment.

The commission said some of the supposed trials are actually fakes, aiming to prey on people’s desire to help others. The fake studies have created websites, distributed promotional materials and even posed as medical professionals, with the goal of stealing sensitive information and money.

Anyone looking to get involved in a coronavirus trial should keep these tips from the Federal Trade Commission in mind:

  • Don’t pay to be part of a clinical trial, or to find out about one.
  • Do an online search before you join, with the name of the clinical trial and the words “scam,” “review” or “complaint.”
  • Legitimate clinical trials do gather basic personal information to identify ideal candidates such as your name, contact information, age, gender, race, ethnicity or various pre-existing conditions associated with higher risk of a COVID-19-related mortality. But they should never ask you to give your Social Security number during recruitment or screening.
  • Never share financial information (such as your bank account or routing number). Most legitimate trials will offer to pay people to participate in the trial, but you can ask to be paid by check rather than direct deposit.
  • The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the National Library of Medicine (NLM) maintain ClinicalTrials.Gov, a free searchable database of clinical studies on a wide range of diseases. You can also use the database to get more information about studies, including whether they’re recruiting participants, and their contact information.
  • If you’re interested in volunteering for a 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.

The Federal Trade Commission said if anyone spots a trial that’s charging people or demanding sensitive information, it should be reported to the commission.

More Coronavirus news

Looking for more information? D.C., Maryland and Virginia are each releasing more data every day. Visit their official sites here: Virginia | Maryland | D.C.

Thomas Robertson

Thomas Robertson is an Associate Producer and Web Writer/Editor at WTOP. After graduating in 2019 from James Madison University, Thomas moved away from Virginia for the first time in his life to cover the local government beat for a small daily newspaper in Zanesville, Ohio.

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