While 75 million Americans are under virtual lockdown in the face of the coronavirus threat, some heartless connivers are exploiting the crisis to dupe computer users out of their hard-earned and currently dwindling cash. From fake home testing kits to “cures” for the virus to “guaranteed” investments, these hard-hearted cretins are capitalizing in the most obscene way possible on Rahm Emanuel’s famous advice about letting crises “go to waste.”
Here is a roundup of some of the more insidious con games being worked on the unsuspecting.
1. Thieves who offer to shop for elderly shut-ins, then pocket the cash
There is no more vulnerable group right now than senior citizens, who constitute one of the highest risk groups. And there is no more stomach-turning crime then offering to shop for groceries and other supplies for these people by unscrupulous types whose real goal is stealing their money. Many of these seeming charitable offers are made on social media, though some seniors have reported being approached by phone.
2. Products that purport to prevent COVID-19 infection
As the self-quarantined struggle with the day-to-monotony of being confined to home, many websites promise devices that can be worn or pills that can be ingested that ward off the virus. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns that “there currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) – online or in stores.”
3. “Safe” investments
As your friends and neighbors watch their 401Ks and other long-term investments wither on the vine, many are yielding to the offer of “can’t-miss” coronavirus-poof investments. As in less stressful times, there is no such thing as a sure investment.
4. Online shopping scams
Back in February, the Surgeon General tweeted out a warning to the general public about face masks:
Seriously people- STOP BUYING MASKS!
They are NOT effective in preventing general public from catching #Coronavirus, but if healthcare providers can’t get them to care for sick patients, it puts them and our communities at risk!
— U.S. Surgeon General (@Surgeon_General) February 29, 2020
That hasn’t prevented panicked consumers from rushing to buy masks online, especially the so-called N95s, which are the type worn by health professionals in hospital or clinic settings. The demand has led to price gouging and, worse still, the sale online of counterfeit products. Some nefarious types are also selling bogus or non-existent hand sanitizer.