Coronavirus Scams Rise as the Pandemic Continues

Beware fake test kits and herbal remedies

March 23, 2020

According to public health officials, there is no cure or preventative measure that can be implemented to hold off coronavirus. Social distancing is the only way to slow the spread of the virus. Still, scam artists around the globe are trying to sell at-home test kits and herbal remedies for people looking for extra precautions. 

Craigslist ads and online resources are increasingly showing the products of people claiming to have the answer for curing or preventing the coronavirus, but there have been no health officials to confirm that these mechanisms actually work. 

Price gougers sell hand sanitizers for hundreds of dollars or fake at-home testing kits that come from other countries. 

Los Angeles City Atty. Mike Feuer and LA County Dist. Atty. Jackie Lacey have dedicated their time to scouring the internet for fraudsters attempting to sell coronavirus prevention products to unlucky consumers. 

On March 12, US Customs and Border Protection officials at LAX took on six bags of fake at-home coronavirus testing kits, which were shipped from the UK, the Los Angeles Times reports. 

While Feuer has not disclosed details of each investigation, he warns, "Scam artists who are targeting Angelenos are going to confront our office and we're going to take them on." 

The crackdown on fake coronavirus remedies comes as non-essential businesses across the country close, including bars, restaurants, salons, and other places where large numbers of people gather. Experts report that in the next year, 70% of the population will become infected with the virus. 

While false remedies could not only be dangerous in fueling national anxieties, they could prevent people from seeking actual medical attention they so desperately need. 

April Denise Thames, associate professor of psychology and a clinical neuropsychologist at USC, says, "When people are at this state, they're willing to try almost anything." 

On a recent show, televangelist Jim Bakker attempted to sell a colloidal silver product. "We've tested, it works on just about everything," he said. 

Bakker is now facing a lawsuit in Missouri, while New York officials have ordered that he stop promoting his products. 

Companies like Facebook and Amazon are already doing their parts to protect consumers against bogus virus cures by removing ads and posts about these remedies from their sites. 

The scams can come in the form of online pleas, robocalls, and emails. Thames says stopping the scammers is all about widespread education about the coronavirus.

"There needs to be a wide public information campaign by our national health experts about some basic issues... where [they] make clear there's no home testing, there are no cures for coronavirus, and there is no medication that one can take," Thames said.

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