By: Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service – MT

HELENA, Mont. — Fears about the new coronavirus are creating opportunities for scammers, fraud experts warn.

AARP Montana State President Alex Ward says fraudsters play on fear and other emotions to steal money.

He says it’s important to be suspicious of anyone asking for money right now, noting it will be widespread news if a vaccine for the COVID-19 virus is ready.

“They’re going to tell you that there’s this magic cure and that they can get it for you for a few bucks,” he states. “And at this point, the CDC and the World Health Organization both say there are no cures.”

This week, the Federal Trade Commission has targeted seven companies with warning letters. The companies allegedly are selling products they claim can treat or prevent coronavirus infections.

Ward encourages people to check the CDC and WHO websites regularly for the latest news on the virus.

He also says folks can research charities soliciting donations at websites such

And he advises people not to click on links in emails that are asking for money. Ward notes that disasters are boom times for scammers.

“Whenever there’s a disaster of any kind, for the first week, it’s usually cons that collect more money for relief than anybody else, because they just have to change their pitch,” he points out.

Ward says anyone who suspects fraudulent activity can report it to the Federal Trade Commission website.

AARP also has a Fraud Watch Network that takes complaints and tracks the latest scam activity.