Zika fears spawning scams, price increases

COLUMBIA, S.C. (WSPA) – It may cost you more to protect yourself from the Zika virus, which is carried by mosquitoes, and fear of the disease is spawning scams that could also cost you. Sales of mosquito repellent are up 35 to 37 percent over last year, especially in Latin American and Caribbean countries, the center of the Zika outbreak. Because of that increased demand, prices are also up in some places.

According to data analytics firm 1010data, the average price for bug spray bought online was up 23 percent from last year. Market researcher IRI reports prices in brick-and-mortar stores are also up for Off, Cutter, Raid, and Repel brands, but the increases vary and were not found everywhere.

SC Johnson, the maker of Off and Raid brands, says it has not raised prices.

Donnie Wheelis, manager of Cayce Ace Hardware near downtown Columbia, says he has not noticed a price increase. “Obviously there’s always some increases from time to time, but nothing that’s major that would make you think that someone was taking advantage or pricing it up because of that,” he says.

But besides possible higher prices, you also need to watch out for Zika-related scams. The Federal Trade Commission has settled a case it made against the company that makes Viatek brand Mosquito Shield Bands for making deceptive claims about its product. The bands are plastic wristbands that the company says will repel mosquitoes, but the FTC says there’s no scientific support that the bands actually keep mosquitoes from biting. The company settled the case by paying $300,000.

Juliana Harris, spokesperson for the South Carolina Department of Consumer Affairs, says buyers should beware. “Anytime that something’s in the headlines, like the Zika virus has been, you want to make sure that you’re comparison shopping and doing your research on the actual product. So if it’s something that’s popped up overnight or makes some unrealistic claims, you definitely want to research and ask some questions.”

The Securities and Exchange Commission is also warning investors about investment scams tied to the Zika virus. It says it has seen increased promotion of stock in companies that claim to be developing products or services related to Zika. According to an SEC investor alert, “Investment scams exploiting the Zika crisis may include ‘pump-and-dump’ schemes, where promoters ‘pump’ up the stock price of a company by spreading positive rumors that incite a buying frenzy and then they quickly ‘dump’ their own shares before the hype ends. Typically, after the promoters profit from their sales, the stock price drops and the remaining investors lose money.”

It advises investors to research whether an offering is registered with the SEC, and to look at all reports filed by the company with the SEC.


Source: WSPA News