A COVID-19 clinical trial that promises $1,200 to participants? It may be a scam

RALEIGH (WTVD) -- With news of a COVID-19 vaccine on the horizon, there's the promise of big bucks to take part in COVID-19 clinical trials, but the Better Business Bureau says the promise of making money is all part of a scam.

The BBB issued a warning about scammers promoting phony COVID-19 clinical study. Catherine Honeycutt with the BBB of Eastern North Carolina says, "The scam works by you may get a text message, email, or social media message that you could qualify for a clinical trial and you could make money."

One scam text message that BBB shared states, "Local Covid19 Study: Compensation up to $1,220! Qualify Here:"

Despite the promise of big bucks, do not click on any links as you could be downloading malware onto your computer or phone. The link could also go to a website where it asks for personal information, to steal your identity.

In other cases, the BBB says 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. Plus, never pay to be part of a clinical trial. Real clinical trials will never ask you to pay them or ask for your bank account information.

While the BBB is hearing from consumers who received scam messages related to COVID-19 clinical trials, you should know there are legit trials that do pay for participation. The key is to do your research to verify the company offering the trial is reputable.

Here are other tips from the BBB on how to avoid clinical trial scams:

  • Look up the domain. You can use lookup.icann.org to look up the URL. Look for warning signs such as a very recent registration date or a registration in a foreign country.
  • 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.
Copyright © 2020 WTVD-TV. All Rights Reserved.