Even a national emergency like the coronavirus is not immune from scam artists and profiteers looking for ways to take advantage.
"Scammers don't discriminate. Whatever the urgent situation or crisis is, they’re going to exploit it," said Phylissia Clark with the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas.
Over the past few weeks, the Better Business Bureau of North Central Texas has received more than 300 complaints related to the coronavirus.
“Face masks in particular are the item we are hearing about most from people,” said Clark.
The Better Business Bureau has already opened an investigation into one online business, EM General, based in Los Angeles, selling face masks that customers say never arrived.
WFAA reached out to the company for comment but did not hear back by our deadline.
Meanwhile, the federal government by way of the FDA and FTC issuing warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent coronavirus. The companies' products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver.
warning letters attached here: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2020/03/ftc-fda-send-warning-letters-seven-companies-about-unsupported
Radio host Alex Jones of Info Wars has been ordered by New York authorities to stop selling fake coronavirus treatments after claiming his "superblue toothpaste" "kills the whole SARS-corona family at point blank range."
The FDA says there currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions or other products available to treat or cure COVID-19.
Also watch what you're clicking on in your inbox as old scams spread with a new coronavirus face.
“What we are seeing is a new take on phishing schemes,” said Clark. “Phishing is a really easy scam for scammers to perpetrate and all they have to do is put ‘coronavirus’ or ‘COVID-19’ in the title and people forget to be careful,” she said.
If you come across, or fall victim to a scam report it to the BBB at BBB.org/ScamTracker and the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#crnt&panel1-1.
Here are some tips from the FTC to help you keep the scammers at bay during the coronavirus outbreak:
- Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam Coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
- Fact-check information. Scammers, and sometimes well-meaning people, share information that hasn’t been verified. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources. Visit What the U.S. Government is Doing for links to federal, state and local government agencies.
- Know who you’re buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
- Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the Coronavirus, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO).
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) — online or in stores.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.