As a few cases of Ebola have reached the U.S., people are worrying about their exposure to the deadly disease and what they can do to avoid it.
Among the plethora of helpful information out there on Ebola (as well as plenty of unhelpful content), drugs claiming to cure Ebola have started to appear, aimed to make money off people’s fear of the disease.
It’s a variation on the unfortunate theme of disaster-related scams: People crave information about tragedies. For example, after Hurricane Sandy, experts warned consumers about clicking on photos or videos that could have malware that then tracks your keystrokes, and fake charities that would steal their financial information.
Unfortunately, scams like these can have major consequences of identity theft and fraud for consumers. (If you think you’ve fallen victim to one of these scams already, you may want to consider credit monitoring. You can also check your credit scores for free every month on Credit.com.)
In the case of something life-threatening like Ebola, people are eager to keep themselves safe. Unfortunately for the fearful public, others see this as a business opportunity. The Food and Drug Administration has for weeks been warning consumers to avoid products claiming to treat or cure Ebola, as there are no FDA-approved vaccines or drugs for treating it.
Since the first person to come down with Ebola in the U.S. died (and a nurse who cared for him tested positive for the disease), Americans have become increasingly concerned about an outbreak in the States, further fueling drug-scam business.
Some of the Ebola-treatment claims are pretty out there: Scammers have marketed products including silver, herbal oils and snake venom as Ebola cures, but the Federal Trade Commission and FDA have issued multiple statements warning consumers to avoid products making these claims.
Both government agencies have warned companies making such claims to stop their misleading marketing — one organization making headlines is Natural Solutions Foundation, which sells something called Nano Silver — and if you come across products advertised as an Ebola treatment or cure, the FTC and FDA ask that you notify them.
Not only is it dangerous to the public to spread falsehoods about disease and supposed treatments for it, such scams can seriously harm people financially. Buying things you don’t need can mess up your budget, which can further damage your finances, and in the case of some online scams, you could expose yourself to identity thieves or hackers, by providing scammers your contact information or clicking on malware-infected links.
Whenever disasters strike, expect to see a flood of scams among legitimate headlines. As much as you want to learn more about what’s going on (as you should), be careful what you click, whom you give your information to and what you pay for.