BBB warns scammers may take advantage of coronavirus outbreak

Posted at 9:00 AM, Mar 02, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-03 09:40:32-05

BOISE, Idaho — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is closely monitoring the current spread of coronavirus, but another group is also keeping a close eye on the outbreak: scammers.

The Better Business Bureau is warning consumers to beware of social media posts, emails, websites, and other communications with false claims of products that include convicing testimonials or a conspiracy theory backstory. An example of this would be the government allegedly discovering a vaccine but keeping it secret for "security reasons." Consumers figure it can't hurt to give the medicine a try, so you get out your credit card. Currently, there are no FDA approved vaccines or drugs to prevent coronavirus, although treatments are in development. No approved vaccines, drugs, or products specifically for Covid-19 can be purchased online or in-stores.

Peddling quack medicines isn't the only way scammers are trying to cash in on coronavirus fears. Con artists are impersonating the CDC and the World Health Organization in phishing emails. These messages claim to have news about the disease and prompt readers to download malicious software. Another scam email tries to con people into donating to a fake fundraising effort, claiming to be a government program to develop a coronavirus vaccine.

There are ways to protect yourself from being scammed. First, don't panic. Do your research and always be skeptical or alarmist or conspiracy theory claims. Don't rush into buying anything that seems too good--or crazy--to be true. Always double check information you see online with official news sources.

Be wary of personal testimonials and “miracle” product claims. Be suspicious of products that claim to immediately cure a wide range of diseases. No one product could be effective against a long, varied list of conditions or diseases. Also remember, testimonials are easy to make up and are not a substitute for scientific evidence.

Avoid buying into claims a product is "all natural." Just because it's natural does not mean it's good for you. "All natural" does not mean the same thing as safe. Make sure to check with your doctor or other health care professional if you're tempted to buy an unproven product or one with questionable claims.

For more ways to keep your information safe, click here.