Here's how to avoid coronavirus scams

Scammers are selling fraudulent cures, setting up fake charities and pulling other hoaxes to take advantage of coronavirus fears. Here's how to protect yourself.
/ Source: TODAY
By Vicky Nguyen and Scott Stump

Concerns over the spread of the coronavirus have resulted in scammers using fake cures, counterfeit products, phishing emails and false online fundraisers to get their hands on people's money and personal information.

NBC News investigative and consumer correspondent Vicky Nguyen outlined on TODAY Wednesday what steps you can take to protect yourself against scammers as cases of COVID-19 continue to rise across the country.

Multiple government agencies have already advised consumers about potential scams and false information.

The FBI released a warning last month about a fake flyer purporting to be from the World Health Organization about the spread of coronavirus in California, while the Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission are warning vendors they say are "selling fraudulent COVID-19 products ... that pose significant risks to patient health and violate federal law."

Televangelist Jim Bakker has been sent a cease-and-desist order by New York Attorney General Letitia James and sued by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt for selling a "silver solution" on his show last month as a coronavirus cure. Bakker has since taken down the video of the segment.

Bakker's guest, Sherrill Sellman, claimed that the colloidal silver solution had been tested on "other strains of coronavirus" and eliminated them within 12 hours. The FDA has warned for years that colloidal silver, which looks like water, not only doesn't cure anything but can cause damage to your health.

The FTC also released a list of tips to avoid scams, including ignoring online offers for vaccinations, as there is currently no vaccine to treat the coronavirus.

Anyone who believes they were scammed by buying a fraudulent product should first contact their credit card company to try to get their money back.

Consumers should also visit the website FakeSpot.com, which helps find counterfeit products, including bogus face masks being sold on Amazon.

Nguyen found masks labeled as N95 masks, which can filter out viruses, but they were actually knockoffs and not the real thing, as seen by multiple one-star reviews from customers who were scammed.

Experts also advise to watch out for fraudulent fundraising campaigns. A search on GoFundMe turns up more than 3,000 results for coronavirus, but the FTC urges people to do research before donating in order to avoid bogus charities.

Cyber experts say to watch out for phishing scams featuring fake emails that appear to be from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Avoid clicking on any links or downloading any attachments because they could give hackers access to your personal information.

Police in Moorestown, New Jersey, are also warning people after seeing social medial posts about impostors going door to door in the area claiming to be from the CDC to conduct surveillance. The CDC is not deploying teams to anyone's homes, so people should contact local law enforcement if this occurs, police said.