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Scammers love to take advantage of our fears, and the spread of a new disease like the Wuhan coronavirus is downright scary. As you strive to keep yourself and loved ones healthy, be sure to watch out for counterfeit face masks and other scams.

How the Scam Works:

You want to buy a face mask to help protect yourself – or family – from the Wuhan coronavirus. But so many other people have the same idea! Masks are sold out in your local stores and even from top Amazon sellers. So instead, you turn to purchasing masks from an online shop you don’t know.

Unfortunately, phony online stores abound – especially when an item is in high demand. Some sites may take your money and send you low-quality or counterfeit masks. Others may never deliver anything all. In the worst cases, these sites are actually a way to steal your personal and credit card information, opening you up to identity theft.

Face masks may be the first phony product to crop up in the Wuhan coronavirus outbreak, but it’s likely not the last. During the Ebola outbreak, the promotion of unapproved and fraudulent remedies was so prevalent that the US government advised consumers to steer clear of these drugs. It’s likely that scammers will use the Wuhan coronavirus as another chance to market products falsely claiming to cure the disease.

Watch out for Wuhan Coronavirus Cons:

Keep the following tips in mind when looking for face masks or other ways to protect yourself from the Wuhan coronavirus.

  • Be savvy about product claims. While wearing a face mask may seem like an easy way to stop the Wuhan coronavirus from spreading, the Centers for Disease Control does not actually recommend it for the general public. Be sure to evaluate claims of any medical product before buying. Especially watch out for products claiming to offer a “miracle cure” for a range of ailments.
  • Only buy from reputable stores and websites. The best way to avoid getting scammed is to buy them directly from a seller you know and trust. Check to see what other consumers’ experiences have been.
  • Be sure the online store has working contact info. If a company seems legitimate but you aren’t familiar with it, be extra careful with your personal information. Before offering up your name, address, and credit card information, make sure the company is legitimate. A real street address, a working customer service number, a positive BBB Business Profile… these are just a few of the things to be looking out for to determine if a company is legitimate.
  • Check with your doctor before buying. If you’re tempted to buy an unproven health product or one with questionable claims, check with your doctor or other health care professional first.

For more information:

The FDA offers these tips to recognize fraudulent health products, and CDC has this FAQ about the Wuhan coronavirus.

See for more online shopping tips.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.