Ebola crisis brings out another sickness: Vile scammers

Phishing, false advertising, cybercrap pervade as Ebola fraud grows

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Volunteers who will be sent to Africa in the forthcoming days are taught how to work with patients infected with the Ebola virus during a training session.

Credit: Reuters

Sadly we all knew it would happen, once the Ebola situation became international news, the contemptible fraud and scam artists would crawl out from under their rocks to exploit it.

They have not disappointed.

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman and others this week noted a number of scams in the works:

  • Consumer Reports published an article referencing a bogus e-mail solicitation offering a $29 “surplus protection kit” supposedly designed for emergency response teams and law enforcement agencies.
  • The Federal Trade Commission has warned that there are no FDA-approved medical treatments for Ebola and that consumers should file complaints with the FTC and the FDA if they encounter a fraud.
  • According to USA Today, at least three companies have been issued warnings by the Food and Drug Administration in the past month for selling bogus treatments, solutions, or therapies for Ebola. The FTC and FDA recently sent a warning letter to Natural Solutions Foundation, which sells supplements, putting it on notice that some of its claims around Ebola violate a number of federal laws.
  • According to a report in Daily Finance, the Better Business Bureau’s New York office has received complaints about fraudulent telephone solicitations involving a charity claiming to raise funds to help Ebola victims. There have also been reports of door-to-door frauds claiming to raise money for a Texas nurse who became infected with the disease.
  • Better Business Bureau is warning consumers about a variety of Ebola-related scams and problematic fundraisers that have emerged recently.
  • The AARP warned about online offers for an Ebola cure or special “natural” or “dietary” methods to alleviate or prevent symptoms; email scams with alarming messages like “Ebola update” or “Ebola Pandemic” which may include links that release computer viruses; sales of “personal protection kits” at low prices to provide supposed “infection defense”; charity scams claiming to help victims or fight the disease; and potential stock investment frauds involving companies that say they are involved in the development of products that will prevent the spread of viral diseases like Ebola.
  • US-CERT reminded users to protect against email scams and cyber campaigns using the Ebola virus disease as a theme. Phishing emails may contain links that direct users to websites which collect personal information such as login credentials, or contain malicious attachments that can infect a system.

The FTC wrote that there are currently no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or treat Ebola. “Although there are experimental Ebola vaccines and treatments under development, these are in the early stages of product development, have not yet been fully tested for safety or effectiveness, and the supply is very limited. There are no approved vaccines, drugs, or products specifically for Ebola available for purchase online or in stores. No dietary supplements can claim to prevent or cure Ebola, according to the supplements industry. If you’ve seen companies or products touting these claims, report them to the FTC and FDA.”

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