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Coronavirus scams prey on the fearful in China, Japan and beyond

Knockoff masks, malicious emails and fake news spread alongside outbreak

A woman peers into her phone on a rainy night in Beijing: Across Asia, con artists and cyberthieves are looking to take advantage of fear of the coronavirus.   © Reuters

HONG KONG/TOKYO/TAIPEI -- The new coronavirus outbreak gripping the world has unleashed a wave of scams and fake news in Asia, from rip-offs and computer viruses to false reports of infected leaders and grisly tales of dead bodies.

The World Health Organization, busy fighting the actual epidemic, issued a warning that cybercriminals "are disguising themselves as WHO to steal money or sensitive information." Short supplies of face masks, meanwhile, have given price gougers and swindlers an easy opportunity.

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