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A page by the Federal Ministry of Health

Bundesministerium für Gesundheit
20:43 · 30. März 2021

Beware of scammers and fake news

A number of criminals are currently taking advantage of people’s fears. In addition, fake news about the coronavirus is being circulated. Be careful and protect yourself.

Protect yourself against scammers online.

How can you protect yourself against scammers?

Do not open your door to people you do not know. There are criminals, who claim to work for the public health office, for instance, and offer you a door-to-door coronavirus test without announcing their visit ahead of time. Such people may be out to scam you. In principle, coronavirus testing only takes place after you have contacted a public health office or made an appointment (e.g. at a test centre). Please be careful when using digital services. Do not open attachments to emails whose sender you do not know.

How can you be sure that a volunteer is not trying to scam you?

Even though most people’s intentions of supporting others are sincere, there are also “fake helpers” currently out and about. Make sure to always be vigilant and do not let people you do not know into your home. Scammers particularly target older people. They might, for instance, ask for money for medication or expensive treatments. Often a scammer might also claim to be a "handyman" and offer to check or disinfect your home.

Someone has called you and asked you for money because they were sick with COVID-19. What is the best way to react?

Criminals currently tend to call older people at home and pretend to be relatives who have become infected with the virus. They might, for instance, demand financial support to pay a doctor’s bill or to buy medication. Please heed the following advice: Always ask callers to state by themselves the name of the relative they are claiming to be (e.g. grandchild). Do not let them trick you into giving names away. If you do not recognize a caller immediately, ask them about things/events that only your real relative could know. Do not disclose details about your family or financial circumstances. Contact the police at 110 immediately if you suspect fraud.

Online fake news on the coronavirus: Check your sources and their origins

Many news articles on the coronavirus are currently being circulated online. Some of this information comes from unreliable sources and contains false information. Spreading this information leads to misconceptions of current events, which may cause reckless behaviour in society. Therefore, please thoroughly check the background and origin of any information as well as of its sources.

How do you recognize fake news? How can you handle such misinformation?

Even at present, misinformation and fake news are being circulated increasingly. Pay particular attention to the sources with sensationalist news and be sure to verify it by comparing with reliable sources of information. Reliable information is available at this website, for instance, or from the Federal Ministry of Health, the Robert Koch Institute or the competent Laender authorities. Refrain from sharing content in social media before you have read and checked/verified the information yourself.

Coronavirus myths

Videos and texts with fake news and conspiracy theories around the origin and spreading of the coronavirus are currently being circulated especially in social networks. Fake news about the coronavirus vaccine is also spreading very quickly. Such misinformation can stoke fears and exacerbate existing uncertainties. Under any circumstances, please therefore refrain from spreading news from unreliable sources. For information on the origins of fake news and background information on facts in German, English and French, please visit the website of the Federal Government. Further information on the topics of “protection against scammers” and “misinformation/fake news” is available e.g. at the following websites:

Federal Criminal Police Office (in German and English)

Federal Ministry of Health (in German and English)

Robert Koch Institute (in German and English)