Coronavirus scams prompt warnings by local and federal investigators

Coronavirus scams prompt warnings by local and federal investigators

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SALT LAKE CITY — While health officials are monitoring any potential spread of the novel coronavirus in Utah, investigators say coronavirus scams are another thing people should worry about. They say fraudsters are preying on people’s fear of the virus.

The Carbon County Sheriff’s Office posted a message on Facebook warning people about scammers creating fake sites to sell bogus coronavirus products. The post also said people are sending fake texts, emails and social media posts to get personal information.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, some sites may offer vaccines or possible cures for the virus. However, officials said those sites aren’t the best way to find out about a potential medical breakthrough.

“If there was a way to solve coronavirus, it wouldn’t be on an obscure website for $29.95. It would be coming from health departments. It would be coming from doctors,” according to Utah Division of Consumer Protection Director Daniel O’Bannon.

The FTC also said people should be wary of emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention claiming there are possible cases near you. The best way to find out the latest information about the virus is to log on to those sites directly without clicking on any links sent to your email.

Plus, fake charities always seem to follow natural disasters.

If there was a way to solve Coronavirus, it wouldn't be on an obscure website for $29.95.

–Daniel O’Bannon, Utah Division of Consumer Protection

“It’s something that’s known in the charity regulator world. Watch out for these fake charities,” O’Bannon said.

The Division of Consumer Protection is seeing another kind of complaint when it comes to online health products. O’Bannon said many people think they’re making a one-time purchase, but, it fact, they’re unknowingly signing up for a monthly subscription that’s incredibly difficult to get out of.

“It would be sent to you every month, and your credit card is going to be charged. Those companies can be difficult to find. Make sure you know what you’re signing up for when you buy things online,” he said.

Fraudsters are known for preying on someone’s emotions, not on their intellect. So, O’Bannon said you should never make any kind of purchase or payment based on an emotional reaction. He said there are effective ways to find out what’s real and what isn’t.

“Type in the name of the product and ‘scam.’ See what comes up and what other people have said about it,” he said.

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