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PrimeGlobal member firm Schneider Downs discusses fraud related to the coronavirus outbreak. 

It is a sad commentary on human nature, but when natural disasters or man-made crises occur, people attempt to take advantage of the situation, and commit fraud.  The government is now warning citizens about possible fraud related to the ongoing Coronavirus (COVID-19) crisis. 

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) jointly issued warning letters to seven purveyors of various unapproved products that claimed to treat Coronavirus.  

The FDA stated, “there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.”  The FDA threatened enforcement actions against companies that continue to market products based on scientifically unsupported or deceptive claims.  As treatments for COVID-19 are hopefully developed, the opportunity for scammers to mislead consumers will increase.  Consumers should only purchase products used to treat COVID-19 symptoms from reliable, established medical organizations.

Other instances of COVID-19 fraud include cyber-criminals who created a map purporting to be from Johns Hopkins University used to track Coronavirus cases. Anyone who clicked on the map, however, infected their computer with malware.  In addition, emails appearing to come from the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Center for Disease Control (CDC) offered unsuspecting recipients an “updated list of new cases around your city,” but in reality, it was used to obtain their email addresses and passwords.  Individuals should navigate to the website of the government agency they are seeking information from directly or through a reputable search engine, and never click on links in emails from unknown sources. 

During previous crises, scammers have set up fake charities related to the crisis to elicit donations from innocent victims.  High-pressure or time-sensitive donation requests, along with gift card or wired money requirements are red flags of possible fake charities.  Also, charities with similar-sounding names to established charities and “thank you” letters for donations that you never gave are other ways victims may be deceived into making a donation.  If you do not have prior personal experience with the charity in question, the FTC recommends researching the organization through available online databases, including Better Business Bureau or GuideStar.

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Schneider Downs & Co., Inc.

Schneider Downs is a top regional accounting and business advisory firm located in the northeastern part of the United States with a significant international reach. For more than 60 years, we have provided professional services to public and private companies, nonprofit organizations, professional associations, service firms and government entities across the United States and around the world. We have more than 450 employees and 42 shareholders and offer more than 80 services with dedicated teams from five business units: Assurance and Tax Advisors, Business Advisors, Corporate Finance Advisors, Technology Advisors and Wealth Management Advisors.

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