Coronavirus pandemic fears fuel scams, rip-offs as COVID-19 spreads

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Sadly, there are dozens of potential scams and rip-offs using fears about the novel coronavirus outbreak to trick people into giving up their money.

The ABC 7 I-Team and Consumer Investigator Jason Knowles are monitoring many of them, including people trying to scare you into buying extra insurance or getting your HVAC cleaned.

"Consumers are saying they are getting calls to clean air ducts to help with coronavirus," said Steve Bernas, president of the Better Business Bureau of Greater Chicago.

Bernas said bad actors are claiming that cleaning your HVAC system can help to prevent or get rid of the COVID-19 virus.

"They are alleging that they can help by cleaning your air ducts and HVAC systems, that they can help in some way, which is not the case," he explained.

Bernas also warned of fake insurers claiming you need additional, special coronavirus converage. This is a service experts say you do not need.

Bernas warned the scam pitch is "both additional insurance and more additionally protection for your family, and that you need this type of insurance because of the COVID-19 pandemic."

The Food and Drug Administration has issued warnings to consumers of products that claim to cure, treat or prevent COVID-19. There are currently no vaccines to prevent it or drugs to treat it that are approved by the FDA.

"The Better Business Bureau is worried about businesses trying to take advantage of consumers during this pandemic, and preying on their fears," said Bernas.

Finally, if you are one of millions hoping to get a potential federal stimulus check, that check would be deposited into your account linked to your tax return or it will come in the mail. But there are phishing attacks from scammers posing as government agencies, so watch out for fake FEMA emails.

"A lot of consumers are receiving messages from FEMA directly saying your stimulus check is ready and you need to click here. It's a variance of the phishing scam," warned Bernas."It's literally impossible to tell if it was a fake email or text."

Remember, if you are eligible for government relief related to COVID-19 government agencies won't reach out to you.
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