The COVID-19 coronavirus crisis has brought out the compassion and good-heartedness of many Americans. Unfortunately, there is no crisis that scammers will not seek to exploit.
It certainly didn’t take long for con artists to hatch a litany of schemes designed to prey on people’s fears in a time of emergency.
In Toledo Ohio, police have warned residents about people going door to door claiming to be selling COVID-19 test kits or asking for advance payment for testing. Tests for the virus can be ordered only through a doctor’s office and no one with a reputable product is selling them door to door.
The Pennsylvania State Police have warned residents to watch out for fake social media posts promoting COVID-19 treatments or phony charities soliciting donations.
Scams run the gamut, sometimes relying on robocalls or phishing emails, and sometimes hawking bogus products with fake claims.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have already warned seven companies for falsely advertising products that they claim can treat or cure COVID-19. Among them have been “The Jim Bakker Show,” on which the host, who many remember was convicted of fraud back in the 1980s, promised his “Silver Solution” could clear the virus from the human immune system.
Also targeted by authorities has been notorious conspiracy theorist and Infowars host Alex Jones, who has claimed the toothpaste, dietary supplements and lotions that he sells can effectively treat coronavirus.
Fear and uncertainty make us vulnerable to scam artists. Cool heads and healthy skepticism will help keep us safe.
And while consumers put their guards up, authorities must ramp up efforts to do more of what state and federal officials have done in these cases already. The U.S. attorney general has appointed a COVID-19 fraud coordinator to organize investigations into these frauds, which is a good start.
The public must be protected from bogus claims and cons while we deal with this public health crisis.
— Pittsburgh Post-Gazette