7 On Your Side: Coronavirus cons play on fear to scam public

NEW YORK (WABC) -- There's an outbreak of new scams stemming from the coronavirus, peddling everything from phony charities to fake products.

The coronavirus is a dream come true for criminals who are playing on fear and panic. The latest scam is phony investment opportunities to buy stock in products or services of publicly traded companies which can supposedly prevent, detect or cure the virus.

The SEC is warning people to stay away from these bogus promotions, and 7 On Your Side found plenty more like it online and on social media.

There was the official-looking email from the "CDC Health Alert Network" encouraging you to just click on the link. But once you hit it...

"It's a phishing attack, phishing is the tool of choice of hackers either because they want to get ransomware on your computer or they want to get your info," said Adam Levin, a data security expert with CyberScout.

Watch for spelling or grammatical mistakes

Another scam making the rounds actually impersonates officials with the World Health Organization. But like most made-up documents, it's filled with laughable grammar and spelling errors.

In one instance they even misspelled coronavirus -- it's one word, not two.

Bogus pleas for donations to "find a cure"

Your social medias feeds are a feeding ground for these bottom feeders -- including a pitch purportedly from the CDC asking for "donations" to find a cure and "stop the virus."

But the biggest tip-off to the rip-off? They ask you to pay them using bitcoin.

Do not click on emailed links

"Never, never click on links, unless you can verify their authenticity," Levin said.

Phony cures, vaccines and products

The BBB also has a warning for buying face masks. Since demand is up, fly-by-night retailers are either selling smoke-and-mirror products which won't protect you or simply charging you and not delivering anything.

Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment or cure claims for the coronavirus, ask yourself: if there's been a a medical breakthrough would you be hearing about it for the first time through a product pitch?

If you want to make a donation, by all means do it. But never do it through a solicitation. Always go through the charity itself by going directly to the website, not an emailed link.


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