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There’s much tension among people as they deal with the coronavirus threat.

People are scared, desperate, forced to stay home and cut off from many of life’s normal routines and lifelines.

In short, it’s an ideal breeding ground for scammers who prey on people’s helplessness.

Better Business Bureau (BBB) research shows people are more likely to lose money to a scam when they are socially or physically isolated from others, if they are actively engaging online and if they are financially vulnerable.

“Add increased time spent online and coronavirus creates the ‘perfect storm’ for scammers, because all three of these factors have increased dramatically,” said Melissa Lanning Trumpower, executive director of the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust.

Here are some tips from the Federal Trade Commission people can follow to avoid becoming victims:

  • Hang up on robocalls. Don’t press any numbers. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from scam coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations and home test kits. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure the coronavirus.
  • Know who you’re buying from. Online sales may claim to have in-demand products, like cleaning, household and health and medical supplies when, in fact, they don’t.
  • Don’t respond to texts and emails about checks from the government. The details are still being worked out. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
  • Be wary of emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about, visit the CDC and the World Health Organization.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card or by wiring money, don’t do it.

Contact Chronicle reporter Michael D. Bates at 352-563-3205 or mbates@chronicleonline.com.

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