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Schneiderman issues consumer alert on Ebola-related scams

by jmaloni


Thu, Oct 23rd 2014 03:00 pm

Schneiderman: Scammers using heightened fear of disease to perpetrate frauds

Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has issued a consumer alert warning New Yorkers about scams related to fears of Ebola. Scammers commonly use moments of heightened public fear to perpetuate frauds, and reports have surfaced of fundraising scams claiming to benefit victims of Ebola. There have also been dubious offers by companies selling bogus Ebola preparedness kits and preventative medications while there is not an FDA-approved vaccine for Ebola.

"New Yorkers should beware of fundraising solicitations and offers of goods and services related to Ebola," said Schneiderman said. "Scammers are shamefully exploiting this moment of heightened concern about public health to defraud good people. These frauds detract from the positive work of the brave medical professionals fighting this disease and the charitable spirit of New Yorkers looking to help out."

If you receive solicitations about Ebola, consider the following tips:

•Do your homework on the disease. With scammers selling bogus emergency preparedness kits and medical treatments, be sure to know the facts. There are no FDA-approved vaccines, medications, or dietary supplements to prevent or treat Ebola, so be wary of offers promising otherwise. Stay informed about the disease, the latest emergency preparedness measures, and the most medically accurate information by visiting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website and the New York State Department of Health website.

·Consumer Reports published an article referencing a bogus email solicitation offering a $29 "surplus protection kit" supposedly designed for emergency response teams and law enforcement agencies.

·The Federal Trade Commission has warned there are no FDA-approved medical treatments for Ebola and that consumers should file complaints with the FTC and the FDA if they encounter a fraud.

·According to USA Today, at least three companies have been issued warnings by the Food and Drug Administration in the past month for selling bogus treatments, solutions or therapies for Ebola.

•Donate to reputable charities. Fraudulent solicitations have been received claiming to pay funds to families of Ebola patients and promising to fight the disease. If you receive a charitable solicitation, do some research to determine whether the charity is legitimate. The Better Business Bureau has a website called www.give.org that allows users to look up charities and see whether they meet various standards of accountability. Charity Navigator also offers a listing of reputable charities responding to the Ebola outbreak that can be found online here.

·According to a report in Daily Finance, the Better Business Bureau's New York office has received complaints about fraudulent telephone solicitations involving a charity claiming to raise funds to help Ebola victims. There also have been reports of door-to-door frauds claiming to raise money for a Texas nurse who became infected with the disease.

•Do not click on unsolicited links in email or online. Scammers sometimes utilize a technique called phishing, in which victims are baited into clicking on harmful links or entering personal information under false pretenses. Consumers have reported receiving fraudulent emails linking to dubious websites where charitable donations can be made. Learn more about an organization before clicking on links or providing donations or personal information.

·CBS News has reported fake email solicitations about Ebola have been linked to malware.

•Ask tough questions. If you receive a charitable solicitation, ask what percentage of your donation will go to the organization and how much will go to professional fundraisers and overhead costs. Ask the charity to send you written information, such as brochures.

•Pay close attention. Some fraudsters will use names similar to those of legitimate charities or mimic the appearance of a legitimate charity's website to deceive potential donors.

•Report potential scams. If you believe you are the victim of a scam or have been solicited by a scammer, take the time to report the incident. One of the best ways to fight back against scammers is to report them.

·Report the unlawful sale of bogus medical products to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

·Report suspicious charitable solicitations: If you believe an organization is misrepresenting its work or that a scam is taking place, contact Attorney General Schneiderman's charities bureau at [email protected] or 212-416-8402.

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