Protect yourself: Better Business Bureau warns of coronavirus-related scams

As coronavirus continues to spread around the world, consumer advocates are warning of coronavirus cons. Any time a crisis emerges, so do con artists, and scammers are at the ready to cash in on our anxiety and fear.

"People need to be vigilant whenever these things come up, because there are going to be people out there who are going to try to either steal your identity or take your money," Andrew Goode of the Better Business Bureau.

Scam number one: Bogus products that claim to prevent or cure coronavirus.

"We're going to find people who advertise miracle cures, or have some prevention that the government won't tell you about or that the pharmacy companies are keeping hidden," said Goode.

Don't fall for it. Treatments for coronavirus are still being developed and there are not yet any government-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent it.

So do not buy any so-called vaccines, drugs, or products that claim to help with coronavirus.

"Another thing people should do is check with their doctors," he said.

Amazon said it has pulled more than 1 million products for falsely advertising effectiveness against the coronavirus or for price gouging. Some third-party sellers are reportedly pricing face masks as much as five times their normal price or charging exorbitant shipping costs.

Also, beware of masks that may be expired and ineffective.

"There's lot numbers on each individual box, if you look up the lot number, you can see if it's expired if you call the manufacturer with that lot number. N-95 masks have a five-year shelf life from the date of manufacture," said Mark Kaplan of Save Rite Medical.

Scams may be in your email inbox, too.

Watch out for phishing emails from con artists pretending to be the CDC and the World Health Organization. They're trying to get your personal information and prompt you to download malicious software.

Also, beware of bogus fundraising efforts claiming to raise money for a coronavirus vaccine or help victims.
Copyright © 2020 WPVI-TV. All Rights Reserved.