BBB Scam Alert: COVID clinical study scams promise big bucks

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LEXINGTON, Ky. (WTVQ) – Thought COVD-19 scams were gone? 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 signing up.

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How the Scam Works

Someone receives an unsolicited message via text, email, or a social media message. It explains how a person 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 or in financial need,  don’t click. It’s a scam! The phony message includes a link to see whether a person qualifies 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. 

Read up more about clinic trial scams on the Federal Trade Commission website. Learn more about scams related to COVID-19 at BBB.org/Coronavirus.

Subscribe to BBB’s weekly Scam Alert emails. Report scams to BBB Scam Tracker.