A look back: The COVID-19 scams we saw in 2020

Scams included phony sellers, fake cures and treatments and fake charities

SAN ANTONIO – A lot of this year’s scams focused on the coronavirus pandemic, from fake cures and treatments to fake charities.

We saw shortages of products at stores and searched the web for in-demand items.

More people reported problems with online shopping to the Federal Trade Commission in April and May of this year than another months on record, with more than half of those buyers never getting what they bought.

Face masks were the No. 1 undelivered item in April and May.

When looking for scarce products online, keep these tips in mind:

  • Vet the seller by doing online research
  • Pay the order with a credit card, which offers more protections
  • And keep copies of all documentation between your and a seller

Get more information about this scam by clicking here.


During the pandemic, the FTC also saw fake COVID-19 cures and treatments, as well as phony testing sites.

The FTC said sellers peddled everything from teas to essential oils to high doses of vitamin C, all with no evidence that they work against the virus.

Keep these tips in mind when searching online for cures, treatments or testing sites:

  • No treatments have been proven to prevent COVID-19. Those used to treat patients are likely at a doctor’s office or a hospital.
  • If an online seller asks you to pay with a gift card, cash or money transfer, the transaction is a scam.
  • Find reputable testing sites on the city’s COVID-19 website.
  • And never give out your personal information to anyone who contacts you.

Get more information about this scam by clicking here.


This last scam is one that you’re more likely to run into this holiday season.

Scammers will create fake charities that look like the real deal and claim to help those affected by job losses or those needing help with medical bills.

When in doubt about giving money to an organization, keep these tips in mind:

  • Ask for charity recommendations from family members or friends.
  • Be cautious of crowdfunding campaigns, and make sure the money is going to the right person.
  • If an organization is rushing you to give, stop and slow down and do your research before giving.

Get more information about this scam by clicking here.

See all of this year’s “Money: It’s Personal” stories by visiting KSAT.com/MIP.

About the Author

Ivan Herrera has worked as a journalist in San Antonio since 2016. His work for KSAT 12 and KSAT.com includes covering breaking news of the day, as well as producing Q&As and content for the "South Texas Pride" and "KSAT Money" series.

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