President Trump’s recent press conference suggested an “injection” of disinfectant or bringing “light” into an infected person’s body may be plausible ways to cure COVID-19. While medical professionals and manufacturers of household cleaners were quick to shoot down this theory, fake coronavirus “cures” are constantly being announced. Some are born of ignorance, but many more are released in hopes of making a profit off the crisis.
Fake Remedy: Silver Solution
Televangelist Jim Bakker (pictured above) was found guilty of selling fake treatments for COVID-19. He touted his Silver Solution as a cure “proven by the government” to eliminate, deactivate, and even kill HIV, SARS, and strains of coronavirus.
The World Health Organization (WHO)—along with the New York General Attorney’s Office—noted in a letter to Bakker that there is currently no drug to treat, prevent, or cure COVID-19. It gave Bakker ten business days to comply with the order to take his Silver Solution off the market or “face legal action,” according to an NPR report.
Within a few days of receiving the letter, Bakker’s website was allegedly no longer selling the solution.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is working diligently to warn consumers that silver does not work to treat serious illnesses such as COVID-19, and it is “not generally recognized as safe [or] effective” either. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) added in a statement to NPR that “colloidal silver can be very dangerous to your health,” and there is very little evidence to support the claims that it treats, prevents, or cures any serious diseases or infections.
Caution for Consumers
“Unfortunately, criminals are very opportunistic…” said Steven Merrill, a special agent and head of the Financial Crimes Section of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in a recent interview on the agency’s website. “One of the most prevalent schemes we’re seeing is government impersonators. Criminals are reaching out to people through social media, emails, or phone calls pretending to be from the government. In some cases, they’re even going door-to-door to try to convince someone that they need to provide money for COVID testing, financial relief, or medical equipment.”
Know this: The government will not reach out about COVID-19 testing, medical equipment, or financial relief in any of the aforementioned ways.
“If someone reaches out to you directly and says they’re from the government helping you with virus-related issues, it’s likely a scam,” Merrill says. These criminals may be using techniques to get the personal information they need to hack into your computer or access your money, financial resources, and bank account.
Another common scheme is fraudulent treatments claiming to “cure” COVID-19. Merrill explains that this is what the FBI is currently most concerned about because such treatments can be “extremely dangerous to your health—even fatal.”
“Only follow a treatment regimen that has been recommended or prescribed by a medical professional,” Dr. John D. Scott, chair of the Department of Pharmacology at the University of Washington in Seattle, tells Parentology.
Bottom line? Only use treatments that have been prescribed by a doctor, pharmacist, or local health department for the treatment of any disease — especially for the treatment of COVID-19.
Fake Coronavirus Test Sites
Fraudulent COVID-19 test kits and testing centers have also been an issue. The FBI cautions that “bad actors are selling fake COVID-19 test kits and unapproved treatments through telemarketing calls, social media platforms, and door-to-door visits.”
Many of these scammers are “promising free care to patients in order to gain access to their personal and health insurance information, including their dates of birth, Social Security numbers, and financial data.” Continuing, the FBI report adds: “Some scammers are selling fake at-home test kits; some are even going door-to-door and performing fake tests for money.” Legitimate and reliable tests are offered “free to patients when administered by a health care professional.”
Consumers are encouraged to report suspicious COVID-19 treatments, test kits, and/or test sites to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov.
The FDA reminds the public that there are currently no vaccines, drugs, or treatments proven effective for preventing, curing, or treating the disease.
While the FDA is working tirelessly to develop a vaccine and effective treatments for the virus, “some people and companies are trying to profit from this pandemic by selling unproven and illegally marketed products that make false claims, such as being effective against the coronavirus.”
“These fraudulent products that claim to cure, treat, or prevent COVID-19 haven’t been evaluated by the FDA for safety and effectiveness and might be dangerous to you and your family,” the FDA warns.
One major concern is that people will try these fake coronavirus cures and delay or stop appropriate medical treatment, which could lead to greater harm. It is likely that such products “do not do what they claim, and the ingredients in them could cause adverse effects [which might] interact with, and potentially interfere with, essential medications,” the FDA states.
The FDA notes that “the only way to be tested for COVID-19 is to talk to your health care provider” because there are currently no authorized at-home tests for COVID-19. The agency is also working with retailers to remove fake products from stores and the web. They are also closely monitoring online platforms and social media for misinformation.
The public is also encouraged to use common sense when seeking COVID-19 testing or treatment, and to be aware that any miracle claims or breakthroughs are likely a scam.
Fake Coronavirus Cures — Sources
Dr. John D. Scott, Ph.D., chair of the department of pharmacology at the University of Washington in Seattle
FBI Interview with Special Agent Steven Merrill
NPR Report on Bakker’s Silver Solution
FDA’s Warning to Consumers About Coronavirus Treatment, Test, and Vaccine Scams
FBI Warning of Coronavirus Scams and Fraudulent Tests