As if shortages of toilet paper and ammunition aren’t bad enough, a new yet familiar scourge on society is rearing its ugly head. Welcome coronavirus scams to the party! As we all try to adjust to the daily changes of our new reality, the worst of society has been quickly figuring out how to profit off of other people’s misery and fear.
There’s nothing new about scammers taking advantage of a crisis. We see it after tornadoes and hurricanes all the time. Fake roofers, tree trimmers, and construction companies pop up promising swift and quality service. Then once they’ve collected hefty down payments from unsuspecting and desperate homeowners they disappear without a trace. The difference now is a coronavirus scam won’t only drain a person’s bank account; it could cost them their lives.
P.T. Barnum is famously quoted as saying “there’s a sucker born every minute”. Sadly this fact is what drives scammers to do what they do. If no one ever fell for their tricks, then there would be no profit or reward. So what is a person to do? Primer Peak is here with some commonsense advice and suggestions!
Be Familiar with Current Scams
The most common type of scam these days is phishing. This is where the bad guy, often part of a Nigerian or eastern European criminal organization, tries to obtain your personal information. They send out emails with links claiming to have information of importance and when you click, they gain access to your system. Some of the coronavirus scam emails have offered information about school closings, news updates, and possible cures.
Another common coronavirus scam is illegitimate fundraisers. Scammers, hoping to make money off of the generous nature of other people, create fake fundraisers and never distribute the money as promised. Instead they take the money for themselves leaving their victims none the wiser.
Perhaps the most heinous and dangerous coronavirus scam is the proliferation of fake cures. There are multiple reports of websites claiming to sell a cure to the virus. To date the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have sent warnings to seven different sellers claiming their product either prevents or treats the coronavirus. These sites have offered a variety of products including essential oils, teas, and colloidal silver.
A couple of well-known names are on the list of snake oil salesmen. Alex Jones of InfoWars was ordered by the New York Attorney General's office to stop selling his Superblue Toothpaste after falsely claiming it “kills the whole SARS-corona family at point-blank range.” Infamous televangelist Jim Bakker is also being sued by the state of Missouri for selling fake coronavirus cure Silver Sol Liquid on his website.
Potential Home Invasions?
One of the most frightening and dangerous scams started showing up the past couple of days. Individuals claiming to be with the Red Cross or local/state health departments are knocking on people's doors and offering virus testing for a fee. The people are usually dressing in lab coats with gloves and masks or other biohazard type garb. Besides the obvious waste of money paying for a fake test, this can be a huge safety issue. These individuals could force their way into your home to rob you, or much worse.
As of right now we have not heard of any reports related specifically to firearms scams, but caution is still warranted. With the rush on ammunition and guns over the last several days supplies are running low. This is a great opportunity for not only price gouging, but flat out theft as well.
How to Protect Yourself from Coronavirus Scams
Once you have identified a potential coronavirus scam there are some simple things you can do to protect yourself.
- Protect Your personal information – Do not give personal information over the phone or via email, or communicate with someone online, unless you instigated the transaction on a secure and verified site.
- Make smart donations – We all want to help during an emergency when we are able. Ensure your money is actually going to support others by donating to trusted and well-known organizations. You'll likely see a lot of GoFundMe requests over the next several months. While the stories may be heartbreaking, donating to a local food pantry or organization such as Red Cross would be more prudent.
- Know the facts – According to the Federal Trade Commission there are currently no vaccines or treatments for the coronavirus. Anyone selling oils, pills, lotions, or other products claiming to treat or cure COVID-19 are lying.
- Be cautious answering the door - It's never a good idea to open your door to a stranger. It doesn't take a pandemic for bad people to try and take advantage of someone they think may be weaker or unprotected. The Red Cross nor local health officials will come to your door to test you. If widespread testing becomes available they will likely be conducted through drive-through stations like we've seen other places. If you have a home defense weapon keep it close and ready to use. There is no need to panic, but being prepared is always prudent.
- Buy from trusted retailers – If a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be wary of individuals selling firearms, ammo, and gear online unless it is on a trusted and established site. If you make arrangements to meet someone in person to buy a firearm make sure the meeting place is secure and well lit. With all of the recent shutdowns it could be hard to find a populated place to meet.
These are difficult times and predators are everywhere. It is important that you take steps to protect yourself and those you love. Senior citizens are especially vulnerable to being scammed. Educating yourself and following these simple guidelines will help keep you safe from coronavirus scams. If you have any questions about the virus go to the source: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization.