With coronavirus cases continuing to climb, beware of fake merchants who are hawking high-demand items like Clorox and Lysol cleaning and disinfectant supplies.
A federal court has temporarily blocked 25 websites accused of illegally charging thousands of dollars for Clorox and Lysol products that were never delivered, according to a lawsuit by the Federal Trade Commission.
The websites carry legitimate product names in their web addresses and logos of the brands, which make their efforts look official, the FTC says.
Some of the victims reported that when they tried to return to the fake website to seek a refund, the site had been taken down, and the thieves had moved to a different URL.
“None of the sites are owned by, affiliated with or authorized by the companies that make Clorox and Lysol and … none of the people who paid for cleaning and disinfecting products from these sites got what they ordered,” the FTC says,
Here are some tips if you’re ordering from an unfamiliar online source, says the FTC:
n Use extra caution when purchasing items that you know are in short supply and are generally out of stock elsewhere.
n Check on the company by doing a search on its name and such words as “scam” or “complaints.”
n Be aware that grammatical errors and odd language are red flags of a scam.
n Read the terms of sale, making sure to calculate into the total price the cost of taxes, shipping and handling. Take a look at the delivery date. Find out whether you can get a refund if you return the item. Also, who pays for shipping and is there a restocking fee?
• Always pay by credit card. Unlike debit cards, credit cards will provide you protection under federal law so, in most cases, you won’t have to pay for merchandise that never arrives. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates.
To read more about avoiding COVID-related scams, go to ftc.gov/coronavirus.
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Yet another COVID scam involves text messages or emails that promote phony clinical studies.
The texts say that you qualify for a coronavirus study and that you could earn up to $1,220 for participating by clicking on a link. Doing so will unleash a virus or take you to a website disguised as an official site that asks for bank account numbers or other financial information.
“Real medical researchers would never ask for this information during the screening process,” the Better Business Bureau says.
Here’s how to avoid this one:
n You can check out the domain by going to lookup.icann.org. Red flags are a very recent registration date or registration in a foreign country.
n Look into whether there really is such a clinical study by going to the organization’s website for more information. The National Institutes of Health and the National Library of Medicine have a free database of clinical studies. Go to ClinicalTrials.gov. If the offer you received has no involvement by a government agency, university or hospital mentioned, it’s likely a scam, according to the BBB.
n Remember that you should never have to pay to be part of a clinical trial.
n While real trials do seek information on such things as contact information, ethnicity, etc., they will never ask for bank account details or other financial information.
Contact Ellen Marks at firstname.lastname@example.org 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 1-844-255-9210â€‹.