While scientists and researchers work tirelessly to find a cure and a vaccine for COVID-19, there are unethical businesses and scammers working just as hard selling unfounded, and in some cases dangerous, treatments.
The Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration have issued more than 50 warning letters to companies that they charge “have used allegedly unsubstantiated coronavirus prevention and treatment claims to promote products and services.”
We have been informed time and time again there are currently no products that can treat or prevent coronavirus disease. Yet the bad businesses and con artists continue to put the public’s health at risk and to rip off people.
One company that received a letter claims “Elderberry is an antiviral. It prevents the virus from replicating in the body, so you want to take it early and often if you start feeling symptoms. Once a day for prevention, four times if you start feeling sick . . . most importantly (elderberry) is high in zinc . . . ZINC + CHLOROQUINE has shown positive results against Covid19 . . . .”
A company based in Syracuse, New York, says on its website “HIGH-DOSE VITAMIN C PROTECTS AGAINST CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) . . . . The coronavirus pandemic can be dramatically slowed, or stopped, with the immediate widespread use of high doses of vitamin C. . . .”
The website for a company in Athens, Maine, that was warned by the FTC, states we should “wear a protective amulet” of “garlic and prayers hung around your neck” and to “keep a small magic bag of protective herbs or stones in your pocket.”
I cherry-picked these from the FTC’s most recent list of warning letters to show the absurdity and the fanciful claims that are being made. But I need to point out that these companies and the others received the warning letters because folks are falling victim to their claims.
The letters are preventative — hopefully, they’ll heed the warnings and stop. Here we have some power. Like many scams or fraudulent businesses, they continue to operate as long as it’s profitable. When that stops so do their operations.
Don’t let virus fear cloud your thinking. If you are concerned, don’t self-medicate — contact your health care professional.
Before you go online and make a purchase check out the business. Although we at the BBB are working remotely, our phone lines are open and we’re happy to help. You can also visit bbb.org.
Some cities are reporting bogus drive-through testing charging people as much as $250 per test. So far that has not been an issue here; but until recently there was no drive-through testing. Keep in mind the only location for testing in Rockford is at the University of Illinois College of Medicine at 1601 Parkview Ave.
The testing that’s being done is free to anyone exhibiting symptoms and does not require doctor’s order.
There were earlier reports that there would be testing available in the parking lots of big box stores. Here those sites do not exist.
Now that tests are more readily available, hopefully there will be fewer people who lose money trying to purchase testing kits online.
One more thing to be on the alert for: scam text messages that warn you have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19. The message states you should get tested. A link is included in the text. Do not click on any links from an unfamiliar caller.
Dennis Horton is director of the Rockford Regional office of the Better Business Bureau.