ST. LOUIS — With all the focus on coronavirus, state leaders are reminding the public to keep their guard up against a different kind of threat: scammers.
From false cures to fraudulent e-mails, scammers are trying to take advantage during the coronavirus outbreak.
“There's always going to be people out there trying to profit off of other people's misfortune, particularly around fear,” said Better Business Bureau investigator Rebecca Phoenix.
Phoenix said scammers may try to get personal information out of you via phone or email by posing as the government or by luring you in with the promise of new information about the coronavirus.
They are even posing as government agencies to prey on people, she said.
“Avoid picking up the phone or answering emails that appear to be coming from the CDC or other government agencies,” Phoenix explained.
Then, there are bolder scammers, like disgraced evangelist Jim Bakker.
After eight years in federal prison for defrauding the public, he's broadcasting again in Branson, selling a so-called "cure" for the coronavirus.
His so-called cure got the attention of the Federal Trade Commission, Federal Drug Administration and New York's attorney general, who issued a cease and desist letter to Bakker. Closer to home, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmidt is suing Bakker for saying his "silver solution" product can eliminate the virus within 12 hours.
The FDA wants people to know that there is — in fact — no vaccine, potion, pill or other product available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019.
“Don't let your fears overcome your common sense,” Phoenix said. “Stick to the things you know about avoiding scams.”
Another area that may provide an opportunity for scammers to take advantage is GoFundMe. There's been a surge of people asking for money claiming to be infected or impacted by the virus. While GoFundMe does its best to keep fraudulent campaigns off the site, it's up to you to vet those claims before you open your wallet.
But what if you do get ripped off?
If you paid with a credit card, immediately go that route to try and get your money back.