Consumer Alert: Gov. Malloy, AG Jepsen, DCP Commissioner Warn Consumers About Ebola Related Scams
Governor Dannel P. Malloy, Attorney General George Jepsen and state Department of Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein are encouraging Connecticut residents to be on alert for any potential scams tied to the Ebola outbreak.
Scammers may be trying to cash in on fear from those who are currently concerned about the outbreak by either providing phony methods to prevent the virus or creating fake charities.
These scams can come in various forms and can range from emails claiming to sell preventive kits to avoid infection, emails that contain a virus that could affect computers once opened or fake charities that are set up to profit from those wishing to help those infected in West Africa.
"It's unfortunate to say, but residents need to always be mindful whenever making a donation to a charitable cause to ensure that their kindness is being used in the way they had intended," Governor Malloy said. "To anyone who is caught trying to scam people in Connecticut in any way, I want to be clear – we will find you, and we will make sure you are prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
"Often times during a crisis, scammers will try through multiple methods to take advantage of the fear and anxiety that may arise," said Attorney General Jepsen. "We recommend residents exercise caution when opening any kinds of emails related to Ebola or contributing to charitable efforts that may in fact be scammers exploiting the crisis for their own profits."
“Scammers follow big news, and all types of products containing everything from silver to herbal oils and snake venom are being promoted online for curing or preventing Ebola, and these claims are patently false,” Consumer Protection Commissioner William M. Rubenstein said today. “The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) are clear -- there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or products specifically for Ebola available for purchase online or in stores, and no dietary supplements can claim to prevent or cure Ebola. If you’ve seen companies or products touting these claims, report them to the FTC and FDA.”
The Office of the Attorney General and DCP recommend that Connecticut residents should be wary of unsolicited or suspicious emails and never open them. Such emails should be deleted. If emails are opened, do not open attachments or click any of the links within the email. Never purchase any products claiming to prevent or cure Ebola, as the Center for Disease Control and Prevention states that there is no approved cure, treatment, or preventative. If residents have been scammed by purchasing "preventive kits" or "preventive medicine," they should report it to the FTC and FDA along with the Office of the Attorney General or DCP.
Charitable scams that may claim to aid Ebola patients may actually be scam artists. The state offers the following suggestions for donating on behalf of victims:
• Donate to well-known, established charities; it is the best way to ensure that your donation is used appropriately. Find a charity with a proven track record that is making help available to the victims of Ebola.
• When giving to any organization, specify the purpose of your donation and do so in writing whenever possible.
• Be extra cautious when responding to e-mail and telephone solicitations on behalf of supposed Ebola relief organizations. These methods of solicitation are more likely to be part of a scam.
• Watch carefully for copycat organizations. Scammers are likely to set up bogus sites to steal the identities and donations of generous, unsuspecting individuals. When giving online, be sure to find the charity’s legitimate website. You can access accurate links to the sites of each bona fide charity through Charity Navigator (www.charitynavigator.org).
• Social media sites can also perpetuate scams. Do not blindly give through these vehicles. As with any charity, investigate the groups behind such pleas to ensure that they come from a legitimate organization.
• Both the need for donations and the opportunity for giving will be present for some time. Do not feel pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics. If you feel pressured at all, you are most likely being scammed.
• Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions.
• Avoid cash donations if possible. Pay by credit card, or write a check directly to the charity.
• Do not make checks payable to individuals.
The Department of Consumer Protection maintains information on charities that are registered with the state and the minimum percentage guaranteed to go to that charity. The Department’s website, https://www.elicense.ct.gov, provides charity registration information and displays any active solicitation campaign notices for a registered charity or their paid solicitor.
Additional information is also available at Charity Navigator, http://www.charitynavigator.org; the Federal Trade Commission: http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/charityfraud; and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance at http://www.bbb.org/us/charity.
Consumers with questions can contact the Attorney General's Consumer Assistance Unit at 860-808-5420, or the Department of Consumer Protection at 1-800-842-2649.
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