COVID-19 is affecting people, businesses and communities around the world. While this is bad news for Canadians, it's great news for scammers who are cashing in on our anxiety about the COVID-19 virus. Better Business Bureau reminds everyone to remain vigilant to avoid scams related to the virus, use necessary, common sense precautions when traveling and find reliable sources to stay informed about what to do as the virus spreads. Look out for fake cures, phony prevention measures and other coronavirus cons.
Fraudulent health products: Scammers are sending messages or creating websites with information about amazing products, including convincing testimonials or a conspiracy theory backstory. Currently, there are no approved vaccines or drugs to prevent coronavirus, although treatments are in development. No approved vaccines, drugs or products specifically for coronavirus can be purchased online or in stores. Con artists are also impersonating the World Health Organization in phishing emails. These messages claim to have news about the disease and prompt readers to download malicious software.
Personal testimonials and "miracle" 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, testimonials are easy to make up and are not a substitute for scientific evidence.
Fake charities: Scam email tries to con people into donating to fake fundraising efforts, claiming to be a government program to develop a coronavirus vaccine.
BBB Wise Giving Alliance suggests that donors consider experienced relief organizations. New charities may have the best of intentions but may face great challenges in fulfilling promises in another country. Also, see if the charity has existing connections to allow it to deliver aid to impacted areas and clearly describes the intended use of funds.
Face-mask con: As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, BBB.org/ScamTracker has received numerous reports about scam websites claiming to sell face masks online. As you strive to keep yourself and loved ones healthy, watch out for phony e-commerce sites and other scams. Unfortunately, phony online stores abound – especially when an item is in high demand.
Be savvy about product claims: While wearing a face mask may seem like an easy way to stop coronavirus from spreading, the Centers for Disease Control does not actually recommend it for the general public.
Buy from reputable sellers: The best way to avoid getting scammed is to buy directly from a seller you know and trust. Check BBB.org to see what other consumers' experiences have been.
Ensure contact is legitimate: Before offering up your name, address and credit card information, make sure the company is legitimate. A real street address, a working customer service number, a positive BBB Business Profile.
If you've spotted a scam (whether or not you've lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.
For more coronavirus information, visit BBB.org/coronavirus