As Ebola makes headlines all over the world, scams are beginning to emerge which the Better Business Bureau cautions the public to be aware of. They are warning consumers that a series of various Ebola-related false fundraisers and product scams have begun accumulating financial and identity-theft victims.
Steve J. Bernas, president and CEO of Better Business Bureau, Chicago and northern Illinois, emailed a statement on the quick movement of scammers to attempt to capitalize upon public fear regarding the deadly Ebola virus. Bernas says the scams include the solicitation of donations by non-existent charities which claim they provide assistance and relief to Ebola victims. Another emerging scam is that of people claiming to be selling stock options for companies which they say have developed a cure for Ebola.
A GoFundMe fundraising page went up on Wednesday alleging to help raise donations benefiting Amber Joy Vinson, who is the nurse currently receiving treatment for the Ebola virus in Atlanta. This site was shut down due to Vinson’s family reporting that they did not authorize the creation of the fundraiser. Despite the shutdown of this particular page, over 100 other GoFundMe Pages exist claiming to be raising money to benefit various campaigns in the fight against Ebola.
An over-the-phone solicitation has also been reported where a caller says he is a representative from the Bronx chapter of a famous charity. He calls individuals saying that the organization is raising money to help Ebola victims, however, the Better Business Bureau of Metro New York has confirmed that the branch does not exist and stated that the solicitation was most likely being conducted by a scam artist and they caution people to be aware that these Ebola scams are taking place.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also submitted warning letters regarding scammers who are attempting to sell what they claim to be miracle products which either prevent or provide a cure for the Ebola virus. The officials state that some of the products being sold have untested and dangerous ingredients within their content.
The Food and Drug Administration, in cooperation with the FTC, has issued letters of warning to three businesses fraudulently claiming they have a cure or medication for the virus. Both government agencies have received several similar complaint statements from consumers. They request that anyone who feels they may have been advertised illegitimate products or purchased a fraudulent product report the issue immediately.
In order to mitigate damages, the Better Business Bureau suggests that donors conduct careful research into any charitable organization that they consider contributing to. They emphasize taking this precaution particularly in a case such as this where there is an event occurring which has gained wide media attention.
The Better Business Bureau suggests taking several preventative steps including finding the charity on www.give.org which is the branch of the Bureau that provides reports related to charities. In addition to viewing the charity’s report and making sure to confirm that it is truly a charity, potential donors can also protect themselves by giving only to organizations who are already known by the donor.
The Better Business Bureau also suggests looking at the project organizer’s sharing and updating of information in order to evaluate its level of transparency. Reading all of the fine print and not assuming that the donation is a tax-deductible gift are also suggestions for protecting the validity of donations. Though some legitimate causes do exist, the Better Business Bureau cautions the public to take a proactive approach in identifying Ebola scams.
by Bridgette Bryant
Photo by NIAID – Flickr License