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Consumer experts warn of spike in coronavirus-related scams

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INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. -- As cases of the coronavirus spread throughout the U.S., complaints about scams and dubious claims targeted at consumers are also increasing.

The Federal Trade Commission warned in February that it expected the rise in complaints. This week, FTC officials sent warning letters to seven companies, telling them to stop advertising products that supposedly help treat or prevent the virus.

The letters went out to the following companies: Vital Silver, Aromatherapy Ltd., N-ergetics, GuruNanada, LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and the Jim Bakker Show. The FTC told each company to specify actions they would take within 48 hours to rectify the concerns.

Products being advertised include teas, essential oils and colloidal silver.

"What we are encouraging the public to do is to ignore any advertisement that may go so far as to say that the product will cure or it will prevent coronavirus. At this point in time there’s no known product that has that capability," said Michael Davis, an attorney with the FTC's Bureau of Consumer Protection.

The Better Business Bureau also said they're hearing complaints about fake websites claiming to sell masks, as well as hugely inflated prices online for masks and hand sanitizer.

In addition, consumers should watch out for emails that claim to come from health organizations with an attachment purporting to contain important coronavirus information. Such emails could be an attempt to hack into your computer.

If you spot a scam related to the coronavirus, you should report it to the FTC at this link and to the BBB at this link.

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