With all the news about the H1N1 flu, Iowans are warned to be on guard for an outbreak of scammers who are capitalizing on people’s fears. Jim Hegarty, of the Better Business Bureau, says anytime there’s a situation like this, thieves come out of the woodwork. He says the latest crop of con artists offer miracle medications and prevention techniques.
"It doesn’t take long for the scammers to try to take advantage of a vulnerable situation," Hegarty says. "We’ve got a full alert posted on our website with information on how you can access the legitimate sites that gives you legitimate information about how to combat this." He says Iowans need to first consult the state’s Better Business Bureau website before buying any products being offered in association with the flu.
"What we find is that in many of these cases, these sites originate offshore," Hegarty says. "They’re kind of hit and miss and they’re really moving targets. I think historically, while there have been legitimate efforts to really defraud people, take advantage of people, I think most of these sites probably do offer a product, it’s just that it’s worthless."
One website offers shampoo, lotion, conditioners and soap that are laced with silver, which the site claims can help protect against the swine flu. The F-D-A says that’s simply untrue. Hegarty says legitimate medical advice on how to stave off this bug is free and abundant, yet the con artists are trying to sell you that same information.
"There’s a site where you can order a book on how to prevent the swine flu from affecting your family, a prevention guide for $19.95, so while they may not be breaking the law, certainly what they’re doing is extraordinarily unethical." He says Iowans should not believe online offers for vaccinations against swine flu, because a vaccine doesn’t exist.