Humanitarian disasters don’t just bring pain to people directly hurt by them. They also bring out the scammers to prey on our sympathy for those affected. Avoid getting ripped off by a fraudulent Ebola charity claiming to help its victims, or for products that claim to protect you against the deadly Ebola virus.
The bad guys came out of the woodwork after the 2010 Haiti earthquake, 2011 tsunami in Japan and Superstorm Sandy on the East Coast, and even the tragic 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, and they are back for Ebola.
Charity frauds: Beware of fraudsters who contact you by phone, text or email with the name of a familiar-sounding charity. Don’t be pressured into donating. Before you give away your hard-earned money, check the group with one of the charity monitoring services. My go-to sources are Charity Navigator and GuideStar, but you can also use the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance and Charity Watch.
As of this story’s publication, there are no charities with the word Ebola in their name that are approved by Charity Navigator, and several dozen with West Africa or Liberia in their names that do not receive a passing grade.
Identity theft: Emails or texts with subject lines like “people being quarantined,” “Ebola pandemic update,” “protect yourself against Ebola” or something similar are likely to be phishing scams loaded with malicious software. According to the National Consumers League, the goal is to get you to click on the link so that scammers can secretly collect your personal information and ultimately steal your identity.
If you receive such a solicitation, do not click the link, including a link to unsubscribe, since that just validates your email address so the scammer can sell it to another scammer. I always check the incoming email address of an unexpected email offer, and lately, I’ve noticed phony emails from overseas, which I add into my “auto purge” directory to prevent receiving any future emails from that URL. You can also file a complaint at Fraud.org.
Prevention and cure scams: Anything that claims to prevent or cure Ebola infections is a scam. There are no current FDA-approved vaccines or drugs to prevent or cure Ebola, and the experimental drugs now in use are in such short supply that none are for sale. So anybody offering you these is a scammer.
Anybody peddling snake venom or herbal oils as an Ebola protection or cure is ripping you off. Ditto for something called nano silver, which claims to kill every pathogen known to man, presumably including toe fungus. Anything that claims to be a “miracle cure” is most likely a miracle cure only for the seller’s empty bank account.
And even the so-called “preparedness kits” you can buy on Amazon are of limited value because special training is needed to put on, and especially take off, the protective gear. The FDA has issued a similar warning against so-called “surplus personal kits” claimed to be used by emergency response and law enforcement personnel.