Don’t fall prey to coronavirus scams

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The coronavirus crisis has drawn the efforts of conscientious scientists, dedicated doctors, inspiring leaders and helpful neighbors.

Unfortunately, it has also allowed less scrupulous individuals to try to take advantage of the situation. In particular, scammers are now trying to cash in on concerns generated by the fear of contracting COVID-19.

“Scammers may try to take advantage of consumers during a time when fears and health concerns are at an all-time high,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr. “At best, these fake cures are simply a waste of money, while, at worst, they can have dire consequences.”

The following companies have received warning letters from the Federal Trade Commission and the Food and Drug Administration for selling unapproved or misbranded products that the companies claimed could treat or prevent COVID-19: Aromatherapy Ltd., GuruNanda LLC, Herbal Amy LLC, The Jim Bakker Show, N-ergetics, Vital Silver and Vivify Holistic Clinic.

The FDA has also warned consumers against drinking a product called “Miracle Mineral Solution,” or “MMS,” which has been touted as a way to prevent COVID-19 and cure a myriad of other illnesses, including cancer and AIDS. The FDA warns that this product is essentially a “dangerous bleach” that could cause severe vomiting and acute liver failure.

Consumers should also be wary of claims that products containing colloidal silver can prevent or cure COVID-19. Not only is there no medical evidence supporting these claims, but the FDA and the National Institutes of Health warn that colloidal silver is not safe to use and can even cause argyria, a bluish-gray skin discoloration that’s typically permanent.

If you’re tempted to buy an unproven product or one with uncertain claims, check with your doctor or other health care professional first.

Carr’s office is also joining local law-enforcement agencies across Georgia in urging Georgians to be very skeptical of those who are going door-to-door or driving around town with offers of COVID-19 testing. Legitimate information on testing is available from the Georgia Department of Public Health and CDC websites.

In addition, the federal government is trying to reinforce trusted information sources such as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, and the White House National Security Council as the primary communicators for national public updates.

“There are many misinformation campaigns circulating that are designed to deceive and disrupt, and we don’t want Georgians to fall victim,” Carr said.

Scams can be reported to local law-enforcement agencies and to the Attorney General Office’s Consumer Protection Division toll-free at 1-800-869-1123.

To report suspected scams or price gouging online, visit consumer.ga.gov.