Agencies Warn of Coronavirus-Related Scams  

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The government is trying to curb scammers preying on the public’s fears.

Several federal agencies issued warnings this week alert the public to look out for potential scams and criminal activity related to the new coronavirus.

“Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus,” the Federal Trade Commission said in an alert. “They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.”

FTC warns scammers may appear to promote awareness and virus prevention tips or ask you to donate to relief efforts. Perpetrators often email potential victims claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or other health organizations in hopes of getting victims to click on links that install malware on their computers. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency also warns the public to be wary of websites that ask for personnel information or contain attachments, hyperlinks or social media pleas, texts or calls related to COVID-19.

Criminals often try to exploit natural disasters and high-profile events. The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team, now part of CISA, issued similar warnings after Hurricane Harvey, flooding in Louisiana and mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.

Be Wary of COVID-19 ‘Treatments’

The public should ignore any online ads claiming to offer vaccinations, as a vaccine for COVID-19 does not exist. For accurate information, FTC recommends the public visit the CDC and World Health Organization websites.

The FTC and Food and Drug Administration Tuesday issued joint warning letters to seven sellers of “unapproved and misbranded products” that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19. The companies’ products include teas, essential oils and colloidal silver, and the agencies say there is no evidence to back up any of their claims. The seven companies are: Vital Silver, Aromatherapy Ltd., n-ergetics, GuruNanda, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC and The Jim Bakker Show. 

If the companies fail to take action as requested by the agencies, they could face legal action.

Tech Companies Take Action

Facebook, Amazon and eBay have taken steps to reduce potential exploitation by vendors of medical face masks, hand sanitizers and other products. Facebook banned ads and commerce listings of medical facemasks, which do little for the public but are necessities for health practitioners caring for the ill. Meanwhile, Amazon and eBay took steps to stop price gouging on a range of products on their commerce platforms, including toilet paper.

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