Consumer Alert: Beware of scams designed to profit off of coronavirus fears

Posted: Updated:

The coronavirus pandemic has been a golden opportunity for scammers and hackers, who are taking advantage of people’s concerns to steal their money and personal information.

The scams may come as text alerts that promise updates on the latest cases of COVID-19. They can also be emails that claim to be from groups like the World Health Organization or Centers for Disease Control.

Experts say that in times of crisis, it’s more important than ever to think before clicking on the email.

“You don't want to click on links you don't know. You want to go to the legitimate websites of the organizations that have the actual information,” says Melissa Companick, of the Better Business Bureau.

With store shelves picked over, there could even be some actual products for sale that can hurt consumers.

In New Jersey, police say a convenience store owner brewed up her homemade hand sanitizer by using a cocktail of cleaning products.

She was arrested, after a boy who used it wound up with burns on his arms.

“The last thing we want to do is to start buying into panic and creating our own type of sanitizers from compounds that we don't know what they contain,” warns Lt. John Devoe, of the River Vale Police Department.

And while researchers race to find a vaccine, there’s no shortage of people out there peddling fake cures.

Amazon says last week alone, it pulled a million product listings, falsely branded as being able to prevent or cure the coronavirus.

“Anybody that promises you a pill or a vaccine or a shot or an oral remedy, there's nothing out there. So you want to be really, really careful. Don't respond to any of those ads that you see,” Companick says.

Consumers are also being advised to be aware of price gouging.

Governors in New York, New Jersey and Connecticut have all declared states of emergency, which makes it illegal to increase prices unreasonably.

New York and Connecticut don’t define exactly what that means, but in New Jersey, it’s 10%.


To report price gouging in New Jersey, call the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs: 973-504-6240 or follow this link.

To report price gouging in New York, call the New York Attorney General: 800-6978-1220 or follow this link.

To report price gouging in Connecticut, call the Connecticut Department of Consumer Protection: 860-713-6100 or follow this link.



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