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The Better Business Bureau is warning of a fresh spike in scams and rip-offs in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
BBB Chicago president Steve Bernas says recent reports of scams and misinformation have been off the charts.
“I'd normally say I've been there, done that,” Bernas said. “But in my 32-year career, I've never seen so many scams coming out of the woodwork in all sorts of industries. Normally if it’s a disaster, it’s the construction industry or if it’s financial, it's the loan industry. This is affecting everyone.”
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A range of new scams have surfaced, including phony messages about money from the government, fake discounts on certain services, and miracle cures for COVID-19, the disease caused by the new coronavirus.
“The Better Business Bureau classifies as this is an infodemic,” Bernas said. “There's so much information out there. Some of it's fake, some of it's true, some of it is scammy. It’s up to you, as a consumer, to decide what is true and what's not true.”
The economic fallout of measures taken to help stem the rise of coronavirus cases could open the door for more problems.
“Because some people have lost their jobs or are very concerned about losing their jobs or may need money, they're going to go online and look for ways to obtain money,” Bernas said. “And unfortunately, scammers know that. They take out keywords and they have these fake websites.”
In fact, scams already have been reported regarding possible stimulus checks from the government.
“My daughter and her friends have been receiving emails already saying, ‘Click on this link to get your $1,000 check delivered,’” Bernas said. “That's a deep concern to the BBB because last time there were stimulus checks that were given out, the scammers came out of the woodwork.”
There’s also a lot of false information flying around about test kits and so-called cures available to the public.
“There is no cure yet and there are no test kits available for public purchase online,” Bernas said. “I think the scammers know that and they try to use this concern to scare people and they prey on people when they’re scared.”
Bernas advises never to click on a link in a text message or email from a source you don’t know. He also warns against ever paying fees and charges upfront for any arrangement for loans or assistance money.
The Better Business Bureau asks people to report all potential scams to bbb.org.
“We just can't keep up with these scams right now,” Bernas said. “There's so many of them, we’re relying on the public to reach out to the Better Business Bureaus across North America.”