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Mask exemptions cards not worth the paper

The spread of coronavirus scams continues.

So if the “Freedom to Breathe Agency” tries to sell you a special card that exempts you from wearing a mask, feel free to giggle into your facial covering.

The cards, which are circulating online, claim the holder is legally exempt from wearing a mask because of a disability. Not only that, the cards also claim that it’s illegal for a business to ask any questions about that supposed disability.

Some versions of the card display the actual seal of the U.S. Justice Department, which is one of the agencies responsible for enforcing the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This is a giant scam.

Here’s another: The FBI says marketers have started selling fraudulent and unapproved coronavirus antibody tests. At the same time, they’re trying to obtain personal information, such as birth date and Social Security number, along with health information that could be used in future medical insurance or identity theft fraud.

These illicit tests have not been approved by the federal government, and their results are likely not trustworthy, the FBI says.

Here are some red flags to watch for:

• A seller’s claim of Food and Drug Administration approval that can’t be verified.

• Antibody testing ads that are delivered through social media, phone calls, email or otherwise from unknown and unsolicited sources.

• Marketers who offer free antibody tests or other incentives to entice you.

• Someone contacting you to say the government is requiring you to take a particular antibody test.

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Online shopping was popular before the coronavirus kept most of us at home, of course. But in the past few months, its popularity has been surging – as have online shopping scams.

In April and May, more people reported problems to the Federal Trade Commission than any other month on record, the agency says.

Early on, the issues involved shady sellers using websites to offer hard-to-find products like face masks and sanitizers. The items were never delivered.

The No. 1 product that never arrived in April and May was face masks, the FTC said. The fake sellers at first told complaining consumers that shipping was delayed due to high demand. After that, the sellers just disappeared, never to be heard from again, according to the agency.

Here are some tips to avoid this shopping black hole, whether you’re ordering health safety items or otherwise:

• Don’t buy until you have checked out the seller by searching for the website or the company’s name, along with words like “scam,” “complaint” or “review,” the FTC advises.

• Keep copies of everything, including product description, price, receipt, messages about shipping delays and any emails between you and the seller.

• Pay by credit card so you can dispute the charge if you don’t get your order.

Contact Ellen Marks at emarks@abqjournal.com or 505-823-3842 if you are aware of what sounds like a scam. To report a scam to law enforcement, contact the New Mexico Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-844-255-9210​.

 

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