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As Ebola becomes a news topic, scammers interested in cashing in on the public concern over this deadly-but-quite-rare disease have begun to proliferate online. What better way to cheat people out of money than to take advantage of the public fear of a disease that often reported on, but not well understood?
What are these new Ebola scams, and how can you protect yourself?
'Ebola Cure' Scam
Ebola-centered scams come in a couple different flavors. One is the "Ebola cure" scam, CBS News reports. The victim receives an email with a link to a website selling what it claims is a cure for Ebola. According to the FDA, there is no FDA-approved drug for treating or preventing Ebola, and the only preventive drugs in existence are experimental and being given to actual Ebola patients.
Once on the website, the victim can be induced to purchase a bogus cure outright, or to invest in a company that makes the Ebola "cure." The FDA and FTC have sent warning letters to companies peddling such bogus cures and "dietary supplements" that are alleged to cure Ebola. One company, the Natural Solutions Foundation (which sells a product called Nano Silver), had its tax-exempt status revoked by the IRS.
Ebola Donation Scams
The other kind of Ebola-related scam is the request to donate to a charity that helps Ebola victims. If you receive an email request to donate to a charity, you should look it up through the Better Business Bureau or one of many websites that list registered charitable organizations.
Of course, some scam solicitations don't even want your money -- they just want access to your computer. According to U.S. News & World Report, these malware scams direct a user to a website, ostensibly to donate to a charity. But in reality, the website is going to download spyware or adware to the victim's computer.
Protecting yourself from Ebola scams is easy. Don't click on links in emails from senders you don't recognize. Before clicking on a link, check to make sure the link is really going to send you where it claims to.
Also, keep in mind that there's currently no FDA-approved cure for Ebola, and if a company were going to make such a cure, it probably wouldn't be soliciting donations over email.
Finally, don't give out your credit card number, and if you do want to donate to a charity, confirm first that it's a legitimate charity and not a scam.