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VERIFY: Watch out for coronavirus scams

The World Health Organization and the Better Business Bureau have both warned against scammers taking advantage of coronavirus panic.

Wherever there is fear, there are also scams. The new coronavirus, officially called COVID-19, is no different.

The World Health Organization has warned that scammers are taking advantage of the coronavirus outbreak to send phishing links and trick people in other related ways.

In their warning, they say that scammers are pretending to be WHO officials in email, websites, phone calls, text messages and even fax messages. If the scammers send an email, they try to phish victims by tricking them into sending information like usernames or passwords, clicking malicious links or opening malicious attachments.

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One way people can verify whether they are receiving real emails from WHO is if the email ends with “who.int”. WHO noted they do not send emails from addresses ending in “@who.com”, “@who.org” or “@who-safety.org”.

WHO also stressed that there is no need someone would need your personal information such as username and password to access public information.

You can verify if communication is legitimately from WHO by contacting them directly. Additionally, if you’ve been targeted by a scam in which someone impersonates WHO you can report it to them.

Digital scams aren’t all there is to worry about though. The Better Business Bureau, which is not affiliated with the government, warned of scams selling physical products. Specifically, they warned about face masks.

The BBB warns of phony online stores taking your money and sending poor quality or counterfeit masks. Their advice to avoid getting scammed is to only buy from sellers you know and trust.

They also warn of products that claim to sell some kind of “miracle cure” for the new virus. Currently, the Center for Disease Control says the best way to prevent illness is to avoid being exposed to the disease in the first place. They do not recommend any cures.

In fact, the CDC says on their FAQ page that they do not recommend people who are well wear respiratory masks to prevent themselves from respiratory illness. They say you should only wear a mask if a healthcare professional recommends you do so. The CDC does say people who have become sick with COVID-19 should wear a mask, as should health workers and other people taking care of patients with COVID-19.

In general, be wary of scams taking advantage of your worries regarding the latest coronavirus outbreak. Don’t click links or attachments in emails from people you don’t recognize and trust. Don’t give away your personal information. Don’t fall for products said to provide some kind of miracle cure. Steer away from buying masks or other items from shady shops.