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Kip Tips

Protect Yourself From Ebola Scams

Take these steps to avoid becoming a victim of charity and investment cons related to the outbreak of this deadly disease.


Both the Better Business Bureau and the Federal Trade Commission are warning consumers to watch out for Ebola-related charity scams. And the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority is cautioning investors to steer clear of scams involving companies that claim to be developing products to prevent the spread of the deadly disease.

SEE ALSO: The Perils of Penny Stocks

To avoid charity scams …

Only give to charities you know and trust. You can check out charities at the BBB’s site, find a list of charities responding to the Ebola outbreak on or give to the CDC Foundation, which helps the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Ebola response.

Don’t give out financial information to unsolicited callers claiming to be with a charity. The BBB reports that consumers have received calls from someone claiming to be with a well-known charity’s chapter in the Bronx, N.Y., that is raising money to help with Ebola, but no such branch exists.

Don’t click on links or attachments in unsolicited e-mails. Opening attachments can install malware on your computer, according to the FTC. And the links can lead to fraudulent Web sites that might ask for your personal information that can be used to drain your accounts or steal your identity.


Be wary of social media fundraising efforts. Just because you see an organization or fundraising effort touted on Facebook or Twitter doesn’t mean it’s legitimate. The FTC recommends that you research any solicitation before making a donation. You can use the sites listed above.

Don’t give cash. Make a payment by check or credit card to have a record of the transaction for tax purposes. Also be aware that if you’re giving money to a project run by an individual rather than a charitable organization, your donation might not qualify as a tax-deductible gift, the BBB reports.

To avoid stock scams …

Be wary of claims that a company is poised for dramatic growth as a result of a supposed cure or treatment for a disease such as Ebola, FINRA Senior Vice President for Investor Education Gerri Walsh said in a written statement. This could indicate an effort by scammers to artificially inflate the value of a stock in what is often referred to as a pump-and-dump scheme. In this scenario, scammers try to lure investors to buy a stock with promises of big returns. But once the stock's price increases the scammers sell off their shares at a profit, quickly driving down the price and leaving investors with worthless (or near-worthless) stock that no one wants to buy, according to FINRA.

Consider the source of the stock tip. According to FINRA, investors should be skeptical of emails or promotional materials from unknown senders hyping a company and its products. It’s a red flag if you’re flooded with numerous releases or e-mails about a company’s stock focusing only on its upside and no mention of risk. This is the "pump" phase of a typical pump-and-dump stock scam. You can use FINRA's Broker Check or call your state securities regulator to find out if the person selling the stock or investment is properly licensed and his or her firm is registered with FINRA, the Securities and Exchange Commission and a state regulator.


Do your own research. FINRA recommends doing an online search of the company and its officials to look for red flags. Pay careful attention to recent or multiple corporate name changes, as well as recent indictments or convictions of company officials. Use the Securities and Exchange Commission's EDGAR database to see if the company files reports with the SEC. If so, read those reports to verify any information you might have received about that company.

Know where the stock trades. Most unsolicited investment recommendations involve stocks that don't trade on a major exchange, such as the Nasdaq or New York Stock Exchange. Instead, they likely trade "over the counter" on exchanges with looser listing standards, such as those run by OTC Markets Group. Although many over-the-counter stocks are issued by legitimate companies, the shares may trade infrequently, which means the price may move up or down substantially from one trade to the next. It also means that it can become difficult to sell shares when you want to -- especially if the price drops dramatically.