Elliott Greenblott: Fraud Watch | Beware of coronavirus-related scams

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With the spread of COVID-19, a number of scams and phishing attempts have appeared recently.

Scammers impersonate officials with federal health services, state health departments, Homeland Security and others. Often, they want Social Security numbers, Medicare numbers, and other personal data. The scam may be an attempt to collect non-existent fees, extort payments or sell fake or ineffective cure-alls.

The FTC and FDA have jointly issued warning letters to seven sellers of unapproved and misbranded products, claiming they can treat or prevent infection by the coronavirus. The companies' products include teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver. The FTC says the companies have no evidence to back up their claims as required by law. The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus. The seven companies are: Vital Silver, Aromatherapy Ltd., N-ergetics, GuruNanda LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC and The Jim Bakker Show.

If contacted by anyone regarding the coronavirus, ask for their name and organization or agency. Call that entity using trusted contacts that you obtain on your own (not a number or email address provided by the person contacting you) and ask for verification of the information provided by the caller or email. Finally, report any fraud attempts to the Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov, or your state consumer protection agency: in Massachusetts, 617-727-8400, www.mass.gov/ago/consumer-resources/; in New York, 800-697-1270, www.dos.ny.gov/consumerprotection/; and in Vermont, 800-649-2424, https://ago.vermont.gov/cap-for-consumers/.

Elliott Greenblott is a retired educator and the Vermont coordinator of the AARP Fraud Watch Network. He co-produces and hosts a feature CATV program, "Mr. Scammer," distributed by GNAT-TV in Sunderland and viewable at www.gnat-tv.org.



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