For the past several weeks, COVID-19 has posed a threat to all of us and our community. Unfortunately, scams also pose a similar threat, preying on collective fear and misinformation. We have seen this tactic time and time again and it is no surprise that COVID-19 related scams are currently appearing on social media and email campaigns.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued several warning letters to seven companies allegedly selling unapproved products to consumers and attempting to deceive them through false advertising. As a result, these companies made significant changes to their advertising and removed unsupported claims of ways to test and treat the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Below are FTC guidelines on ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim.
- Hang up on robocalls and do not press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch false claims and by pressing a number to speak with a live person, it may lead to more robocalls.
- Fact-check information. Before you pass on any messages, contact trusted sources.
- Know who you are buying from. Online sellers may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household, health and medical supplies when, in fact, they do not.
- Do not respond to texts and emails about checks from the government.
- Do not click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download viruses onto your computer or device.
In coordination with the FTC, the Montgomery County Office of Consumer Protection (OCP) are also alerting and protecting residents from scammers. For example, OCP stresses that you should beware of scams that attempt to sell “approved” potions, pills, or treatment products to cure COVID-19. Scammers will use online marketplaces and social media to advertise “miracle” products to cure COVID-19, and in some cases attempt to offer bogus coronavirus vaccines. Furthermore, you may also be asked to donate funds towards research or to help those in need.
Please be aware of your surroundings, both physically and virtually. If you fall victim to a scam of this nature, please file an online complaint here.