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BBB: Zika Scams Are Buzzing About

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Scammers prey on people’s fears to make money: it’s what they do. So with the Zika outbreak, they’re cashing in on anxiety over the disease. The Better Business Bureau is urging everyone not to fall for them.

Tammy Ward with the BBB in Pensacola tells us how such scams work, and that they’re online for the most part.  

“People can receive an email, or they can get it through social media,” Ward says. “They might even be looking for something, searching the Web and they might actually come up with a website that will have one of the advertisements ‘Here’s how you can avoid getting the Zika virus.’”

The New York Attorney General's Office has issued cease-and-desist letters to seven companies marketing products that claim to protect against Zika. The Federal Trade Commission is also warning online sellers regarding unsubstantiated claims about their products.

“They have actually sent out several letters to organizations they’ve already found websites on, warning them to take down information if they cannot scientifically prove that what they’re trying to sell is actually going to be working,” said Ward.

If you seek to purchase items from such websites, the Better Business Bureau says be skeptical of any too-good-to-be-true claims and look for EPA-approved products. Ward says the end of Zika-related cons remains far in the distance, and there are other health-related scams out there.

“The biggest ones is one product that does it all,” said Ward. “You should be suspicious is there is one product that is out there than can cure every kind of disease that you have.”

Other red flags are claims of an “all-natural” product, which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good for you or even safe. And if a medicine is being touted as a “miracle cure,” chances are it’s not. 

Ward says to check with your doctor to get the facts. Also be on the lookout for conspiracy theories, which are used to distract consumers from the obvious, common-sense questions about the so-called miracle cure.

“They feed on their fear of being sick or catching something,” Ward said. “Just be really careful about what you read, and double-check it. The bottom line with everything is, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.”

More information on protecting yourself against the Zika virus is available at www.cdc.gov; more about scams and how to report a scam is at www.bbb.org.

Dave came to WUWF in September, 2002, after 14 years as News Director at the Alabama Radio Network in Montgomery, Mobile and Birmingham and a total of 27 years in commercial radio. He's also served as Alabama Bureau Chief for United Press International, and a stringer for the Birmingham Post-Herald.