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Consumer Alert: Don’t Let Scammers Exploit Your Coronavirus Fears

Tuesday, March 3, 2020

Fears about the coronavirus and news of infections are on the rise, so scammers and fraudsters are sure to follow. Recent media reports detail unscrupulous sellers touting fake treatments listed at outrageous prices. Scammers are setting up bogus websites, emails, texts, and social media posts to take people’s hard-earned money.

Our office is watching the news closely, and we want you to be able to avoid coronavirus scams. The best way to protect yourself is to follow these tips:

  • Be skeptical of “miracle cures.” Ignore online offers for vaccinations, pharmaceuticals, and medicines. If you are unsure about a product, check with a doctor before you buy it. Remember, as all scams go – if it’s too good to be true – it probably is.
  • Watch out for high-priced or low-quality products. Because of high demand, prices are increasing on products like hand sanitizers and face masks. Moreover, some of these products may not even be of the quality they promise. Consider health recommendations from the Centers for Disease Control when deciding whether a purchase is necessary. If you are unsure about a product, check with a doctor or health professional before you buy it. Research before you make a purchase and try to buy from reputable companies with a reliable record – and don’t pay an unfair price for something you may not need.
  • Don’t let anyone rush you. Avoid offers that are only good “now or never.” Fears about the spread of coronavirus mean that many people are making decisions under pressure – walk away from high-pressure sales pitches or cure-all promises.
  • Watch out for phishing emails. Criminals will try to steal your money and information by sending you phony communications. If a person claiming to be an expert on coronavirus contacts you, ignore them. Double-check links before you click on them, and don’t open anything from an unfamiliar sender.
  • Look out for unauthorized or fraudulent charities. Don’t let anyone rush you to into making a donation, and visit www.give.org or www.charitywatch.org to make sure the organization you are considering donating to is legitimate.

A lot of false information is floating around about the coronavirus. Stick to reputable sources – visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, World Health Organization, or North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services websites for more information, or contact your doctor if you have questions.

If a company contacts you and you’re unsure of their authenticity or if you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, contact our office’s Consumer Protection Division at ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.