Beware of phony clinical trials for COVID-19: Action News Troubleshooters

PHILADELPHIA (WPVI) -- The Action News Troubleshooters are warning about phony clinical trials for COVID-19 that promise big bucks to participants.

Thousands of legitimate trials are underway, but there are bogus ones too. That means - before you even click a link - you need to know how to spot the difference.

As companies race to find effective vaccines and treatments for COVID-19, scammers are racing to take advantage of a new opportunity.

"They're moving quickly. And they're trying to get as many people as they can to fall for their latest scheme," said Kelsey Coleman of the Better Business Bureau.

Emails, phone calls, and text messages are hitting inboxes and phones across the country. It can say "Local COVID19 Study: Compensation up to $1,2220. Qualify here."

"And to qualify for the study, they want you to click on a link. And that link is potentially downloading malware, and it's asking, potentially, for your banking information," said Coleman.

It's all in an effort to steal your money and your information.

So remember: a legitimate COVID-19 study will never ask for your banking information or any other personal financial information.

"So that's a big red flag. And they're also not going to send you unsolicited text messages or Facebook messages with those links that are inviting you to sign up," she said.

You can also look up the domain to get more information by going to lookup.icann.org.

"If you look up their domain, they were just created within the past day or the past week," she said.

And often you'll see they're hosted by a foreign country.

To find a real clinical study go to Clinicaltrials.gov. It's a free searchable database offered by the National Institutes of Health.

To volunteer for a COVID-19 trial, you can sign up at the COVID-19 Prevention Network. It's a website run by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the NIH.

Also, a legitimate clinical trial or study will never ask you to pay to participate.
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