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Scam Alert: that coronavirus face mask could be a con

From the Better Business Bureau of Central Virginia:

Scammers love to take advantage of our fears, and the spread of a new disease like coronavirus is downright scary. As you work to keep yourself and loved ones healthy, watch out for counterfeit face masks.

How the Scam Works: 

 You want to buy face masks for protection from the coronavirus. But many other people have the same idea. Masks are sold out in your local stores and even from top Amazon sellers. You next try to purchase from an online source you don’t know.

Unfortunately, phony online stores abound– especially when an item is in high demand. Some sites take your money and send you low-quality or counterfeit masks. Others won’t deliver anything. In worst cases these sites are actually a way to steal your personal and credit card information, opening you up to identity theft.

“There’s no end to how low scammers or unsavory businesses will go to cheat someone, especially in a crisis scenario,” said Barry N. Moore, BBB serving Central Virginia President & CEO. “The greater the fear, the more scams pop up,” he added.

Coronavirus safe face masks, along with the bogus “coronavirus home testing kits,” may be among the first phony products to crop up in the coronavirus outbreak, but they’re likely not the last. During the 2014-2016 Ebola outbreak coming from West Africa, that was thankfully halted from becoming a worldwide epidemic, the promotion of unapproved and fraudulent remedies was so prevalent that the US government advised consumers to totally steer clear of these “cures.” It’s likely scammers will use the coronavirus as yet another chance to market products falsely claiming to cure the disease.

Watch out for Coronavirus Cons:

Keep the following tips in mind when looking for face masks or other ways to protect yourself from the coronavirus. 

·         Be savvy about product claims. While wearing a face mask may seem like an easy way to stop coronavirus from spreading, the Centers for Disease Control does not actually recommend it for the general public. The coronavirus microbes are so small they can pass through store purchased face masks, though these simple face masks do help contain a sneeze or cough. Be sure to evaluate claims of any medical product before buying. Especially watch out for products claiming to offer a “miracle cure.”

·         Only buy from reputable stores and websites.The best way to avoid getting scammed is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust. Check to see what other consumers’ experiences have been.

·         Be sure the online store has working contact info: If a company seems legitimate, but you aren’t familiar with it, be extra careful with your personal information. Before offering up your name, address, and credit card information, make sure the company is legitimate. A real street address, a working customer service number, a positive BBB Business Profile; just a few things to be looking for to determine if a company is legitimate.

·         Check with your doctor before buying: If you’re tempted to buy an unproven health product or one with questionable claims, check with your doctor or other health care professional first.

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