Don’t Fall for Pandemic Cons

Scammers are stealing money with phishing schemes, fake remedies and inflated prices on products that are in demand.

(Image credit: Justin Paget Photography Ltd (Justin Paget Photography Ltd (Photographer) - [None])

Beware of e-mail messages that claim to come from medical or health care organizations, especially if they include attachments that supposedly provide pertinent information about the coronavirus. Cybercriminals are using these bogus e-mails to trick individuals into downloading malware onto their computers that can be used to steal personal information, the U.S. Secret Service says. Also watch out for:

Non-delivery scams. Avoid paying up-front payments or deposits for high-demand items, such as hand sanitizers or face masks. Some crooks, posing as medical supply com­panies, take the money and run, the Secret Service says. Some businesses that actually stock the products are selling them at exorbitant prices. In states where the governor has declared an emergency because of the coronavirus, such price gouging may be illegal.

Fake cures. There are currently no approved drugs or vaccines available to treat the coronavirus, but that hasn’t stopped hucksters from promoting teas, essential oils and minerals as miracle cures for the disease. In early March, the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration issued warning letters to seven sellers of such products, noting that the companies have no evidence to back up their claims.

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Sandra Block
Senior Editor, Kiplinger's Personal Finance

Block joined Kiplinger in June 2012 from USA Today, where she was a reporter and personal finance columnist for more than 15 years. Prior to that, she worked for the Akron Beacon-Journal and Dow Jones Newswires. In 1993, she was a Knight-Bagehot fellow in economics and business journalism at the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism. She has a BA in communications from Bethany College in Bethany, W.Va.