There’s no approved cure for COVID-19, but charlatans are trying to take advantage of folks who are desperate

April 13, 2020 7:00 am

Consumer scams. Credit: Federal Trade Commission.

Do not download a new “Social Distancing’’ App that promises to detect the presence of the coronavirus when it’s too close to you.

Forget about drinking liquid silver (16-ounce bottle for $24.99) from a company in Melbourne, Fl.

Forget about special toothpaste or essential oils.

Don’t fall for an online coronavirus test – there is no such thing that works.

There is no vaccine either.

There is no currently approved cure for the coronavirus – but that hasn’t stopped the charlatans of this world from trying to take advantage of folks who are desperate to find a way out of this terrible disease that is putting hundreds of thousands in the hospital and taking the lives of thousands more.

Watch out for scams that promise a lot and deliver nothing but empty pocketbooks and grief.

Some of the offers of amazing cures are fake cures and are being investigated by federal authorities.

Others can damage your health. The liquid silver, for instance, has been the subject of repeated warnings from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and others who warn that it may also turn your skin blue and block your ability to absorb beneficial drugs.

Joan Donovan, the research director at Harvard Kennedy’s Shorenstein Center, views the new app for your phone as particularly evil.

If you download it on the promise that you will be alerted to the presence of the coronavirus near by, all you get is a frozen-up device and a demand for payment of a bitcoin ransom.

Hard to believe there are people around us that are that evil.

Many of us rely heavily on our telephones to get email, access to Facebook and other social media websites as well as calls from distant family members. The thought of having to deal with malware and an unusable phone is terribly cruel in the midst of a health scare that is isolating us from each other.

Some of the scams come in the form of robocalls offering respirator masks, stimulus checks if you will only give them your bank account numbers and bootleg equipment that doesn’t work.

I got one over the weekend offering me cash. Much as I would like the cash, I had enough doubt to simply suggest the caller was scamming me and hang up.

Dr. Deborah Birx, the scarf-wearing official who participates in White House briefings on the virus, has urged Americans not to fall for the scams, many of which are found on the internet.

Officials at the Federal Trade Commission’s Bureau of Consumer Protection estimate that Americans have already lost more than $12-million to various scams that promise a cure.

Remember what your momma told you: “If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is not true.’’

Most of us are remembering to wear our masks – including some that are very inventive ways to wear beautiful scarves and old t-shirts.

And many of us are going stir crazy at home, reading whatever we can find, putting together jigsaw puzzles, cleaning out closets and spending many hours on our computers.

We are darting out to the grocery stores and occasionally picking up prepared meals – from a number of restaurants who deliver them to your car curbside.  They are providing us with great service and good food and probably not making much of a profit from it.

Bored during lockdown: An 8-year-old neighbor, Brooklin, draws cats that are posted on refrigerators in residents’ homes. Courtesy of Lucy Morgan.

An 8-year old in our neighborhood is entertaining us with her custom drawings – a pig for some, a cat for us.  Her family is new to our street, but her mother explained she is bored and looking for something to do.  Her art work survives on our refrigerator and on many other refrigerators on our street.

It’s a new way of living.

We are glad we have two feisty cats – even though Willie and Johnny seem to think that we are staying home merely to serve them.  And they are indignant when I go out and leave them. Whenever this ends, it’s going to take months to retrain them.

And no one is sure how long we need to do this.

But most of us seem to be convinced that it’s better than the alternative and a bed in anybody’s ICU.

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Lucy Morgan
Lucy Morgan

Pulitzer Prize-winner Lucy Morgan was chief of the St. Petersburg (Tampa Bay) Times capital bureau in Tallahassee for 20 years, retiring in 2006 and serving as senior correspondent until 2013. She was inducted into the Florida Women’s Hall of Fame and the Florida Newspaper Hall of Fame. The Florida Senate named its press gallery after Morgan, in honor of her two decades covering the Legislature.