SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 News) – As the outbreak of coronavirus continues some online scams are going viral and spreading faster than the disease.
Despite some of the claims of some online advertisements, there’s no vaccine or preventative medicine available for the novel coronavirus, according to Dr. Joseph Miner, the Executive Director of the Utah Department of Health.
“There’s a risk that individuals will try to take advantage of people being scared and promote unproven health practices or products,” Dr. Miner told ABC4 News. “This is very sad and unfortunate. There is no actual treatment for this infection.”
Dr. Peter G. Lurie, President of the Center for Science in the Public Interest is calling on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to take enforcement action against companies marketing treatments online, writing in a statement: “Whether it’s anthrax, SARS, or swine flu, hucksters will emerge like clockwork to promote worthless pills and potions. Regulators at FDA and the FTC should act quickly to protect consumers from any supplement maker who claims their product will prevent, cure or ‘deactivate’ coronavirus.”
People ABC4 spoke to in Salt Lake City Thursday called these scammers the modern-day equivalent of snake oil salesmen.
“That’s been going on since way back in the Wild West and probably even the Dark Ages,” Stephen Wilcox said.
“Shame on those people to take something that’s pretty serious,” Elvis Hansen said. “It’s a shame that people aren’t checking the real stuff.”
Facebook and Twitter are now cracking down on misinformation. When you search for “coronavirus” they display links to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and the National Institutes of Health.
The FTC is warning:
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know – or your computer could get a virus way before you do
- Watch for fake emails that say they are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- Don’t pay attention to advertisements for vaccines, cures or treatments
- Watch for “investment opportunities” in companies trying to profit from the outbreak
If you or someone you know has been scammed, you can file a complaint with the Utah Division of Consumer Protection here: https://consumerprotection.utah.gov/complaints/manual.html