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Scammers are looking to exploit coronavirus fears, BBB warns. Here's how you can protect yourself

According to the Better Business Bureau, scammers may use someone's fear of the coronavirus in a number of ways, like phony cures or fundraisers.

With news of more deaths attributed to the coronavirus in the U.S., public fear of the illness continues to grow. And, perhaps unsurprisingly, the Better Business Bureau [BBB] is warning the public to be on the lookout for scam artists hoping to take advantage of the situation.

According to the BBB, scammers have seized on the opportunity to exploit fear of the coronavirus in a number of ways. Fake cures with phony testimonials and conspiracy theories about a government vaccine being kept under wraps are just a couple of scams in circulation, according to the BBB

“Currently there are no U.S. Food and Drug Administration-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent coronavirus, although treatments are in development,” the BBB wrote in a press release. “No approved vaccines, drugs, or products specifically for coronavirus can be purchased online or in stores.”

The BBB also warns of phishing emails. In one email scam, the sender poses as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC] or the World Health Organization (WHO) with downloads claiming to hold “new information” about coronavirus. These downloads instead contain malware to infect your computer, according to the BBB.

Another email scam is just simply out to take your money. The sender claims to be seeking donations for a government program working to develop a vaccine for coronavirus.

In its press release, the BBB offered the following tips anyone can use to spot a potential scam:

  • Don't panic. Do your research: Be skeptical of alarmist and conspiracy theory claims and don't rush into buying anything that seems too good – or crazy – to be true. Always double-check the 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, testimonials are easy to make up and are not a substitute for scientific evidence.
  • It's "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. 
  • Check with your doctor: If you're tempted to buy an unproven product or one with questionable claims, check with your doctor or other health care professional first.

Learn more about coronavirus scams from the Federal Trade Commission.

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