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BBB Scam Alert: Preparing for Coronavirus? That Face Mask Could be a Con

By Better Business Bureau. February 6, 2020.
#BBBDelivers: For more information, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.
 
As the coronavirus outbreak worsens, BBB.org/ScamTracker has received numerous reports about scam websites claiming to sell face masks online.  As you strive to keep yourself and loved ones healthy, be sure to watch out for phony ecommerce sites and other scams. Even better, save masks for the medical professionals who really need them, says Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

How the Scam Works:  

You want to buy a face mask to help protect yourself – or family – from coronavirus. Masks are sold out in your local stores and many major online sellers. So instead, you turn to purchasing masks from an online shop you don’t know.

Unfortunately, phony online stores abound – especially when an item is in high demand. According to Scam Tracker reports, these phony sellers take victims’ money and never deliver anything all. One person reported ordering nearly $200 in masks and received no product or response from the seller: “I checked back a few times over the past week to see if there was updated information on a shipping date, but never got more information than that ‘the order was being processed.’” These sites use tricks like limited time deals to entice you into ordering more.

In the worst cases, these sites are actually a way to steal your personal and credit card information, opening you up to identity theft.

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. Be sure to evaluate claims of any medical product before buying. Especially watch out for products claiming to offer a “miracle cure” for a range of ailments.

  • 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 BBB.org 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… these are just a few of the things to be looking out for to determine if a company is legitimate.

  • As the disease spreads, be wary of other coronavirus cons: Look out for fake cures, phony prevention measures, and other scams. Read BBB's alert about fake coronavirus cures

For more information:

The FDA offers these tips to recognize fraudulent health products, and CDC has this FAQ about coronavirus. See BBB.org/ShoppingOnline for more online shopping tips. 

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.

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