Zika Scam Watch: How to Know Which Products Really Keep You Safe

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During a public health crisis, some fraudulent retailers find a way to make a fortune by taking advantage of people’s fears. This week, the Federal Trade Commission released a statement warning consumers about questionable Zika virus protection products.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted through mosquito bite, causes mild to moderate symptoms in most people, including fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis. However, the Zika virus can also cause a severe birth defect called microcephaly when transmitted from a pregnant woman to her fetus.

Questionable Zika Products

The FTC sent out 10 warning letters to online retailers found to be selling products that purportedly provide protection from the Zika virus. These misleading and false claims may violate the FTC Act, but they also pose a serious risk to consumers. Those who buy these bogus products might think they are adequately protected from the Zika virus and may neglect to use legitimate safety measures against mosquito bites. This puts consumers at greater risk of contracting the virus.

Consumers who want to protect themselves from mosquitoes that may be carrying the Zika virus are advised to learn which products are legitimate and which may be Zika scam products.

The FTC letter has targeted retailers of products such as wristbands, patches, and stickers that supposedly protect wearers from the virus through a variety of unverified and untested means. A company called Viatek was fined $300,000 by the FTC for false advertising, claiming their “natural” mosquito repellent bracelets could create a “barrier” that could shield anyone within five feet for up to 120 hours.

Another company based in Oregon received a cease and desist letter for its products that claim to be the “best way to avoid Zika virus” by using ultrasonic technology.

These products, and others like it, do not have any of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended active ingredients to repel mosquitos.

Four Proven Mosquito Repellent Ingredients

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency identifies several products that are effective mosquito repellents. Consumers should only use products with proven effective active ingredients, such as DEET, Picaridin, Oil of Eucalyptus (also known as para-menthane-diol), and IR3535.

Be sure that any mosquito repellent product you use is also registered with the EPA, as those products are proven to be safe even for pregnant women.

EPA-Certified Labels

These misleading Zika prevention products are also unable to demonstrate that their products’ repellent effects last as long as advertised. Another telltale sign of a legitimate Zika product that consumers should look out for is the EPA’s repellency awareness graphic, which consumers can now see on insect repellent products made this year.

This graphic tells consumers exactly how long the product will repel mosquitos and other insects when applied correctly. The EPA uses scientific data and standard evaluation practices to ensure these products meet the standards that consumers expect. By adhering to this graphic, consumers know when to re-apply their product as necessary to prevent mosquito bites.

What to Do If You Bought Zika Scam Products

It’s important for consumers to do the research to find trustworthy products to ward off mosquitos that may carry the Zika virus and to avoid wristbands, patches, and stickers that use unverified methods to repel bugs. If you’ve purchased any of these products, do not use them, and opt for mosquito repellent that is approved by regulators.

Along with these bogus Zika protection products, there are many items on the market that are guilty of consumer fraud. Read more to learn which products are currently the subject of class actions due to deceptive advertising, health hazards, and defects.

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