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Stay alert to phony COVID-19 claims

A woman reading news on her cellphone.

Buyer, beware. Scammers are trying to take advantage of fears about the coronavirus. They're peddling fake cures, treatments and in-home testing kits. Don't fall for it.

The virus that causes COVID-19 is new in humans. There is not yet a vaccine to prevent it. And the only treatments are for people in the hospital with severe COVID-19.

In the meantime, some people and companies are trying to fill the knowledge gap by selling products that, at best, aren't approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA). At worst, they could prove dangerous to you and your family.

Warning letters have been sent

FDA and the Federal Trade Commission have sent out many warning letters to companies hawking cures and treatments—such as teas, essential oils, tinctures and colloidal silver—and they expect to send even more. Here's a list of warning letters FDA has sent in response to false coronavirus claims.

FDA also has its eye on companies selling fake in-home COVID-19 test kits. The agency has OK'd some at-home test kits for the illness. But they require a doctor's order.

Fake testing kits and other scams could keep some patients from seeking care. Or they could lead people to delay treatment.

Scammers also are sending out phony COVID-19 emails, some even claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Some of these emails ask for your personal information. They might also falsely say you need to register to receive government payments.

Don't be fooled into clicking on any attachments to these emails. That could download malware onto your computer.

How to avoid scams

Here are a few tips for identifying bogus claims:

  • No vaccines are available yet. Treatments are available, but only for patients hospitalized with severe COVID-19.
  • Know that no foods or dietary supplements have been approved for preventing or treating the virus. Ditto with products marketed for veterinary use or research use only.
  • Be suspicious of products that claim to treat a wide range of diseases.
  • Be aware that personal stories are not scientific evidence.
  • View so-called miracle cures with a great deal of skepticism. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

Finally, remember this: If you have symptoms of COVID-19, call your medical provider. They will advise you on whether you should get tested.

Want more resources? Visit our Coronavirus topic center.

Reviewed 9/23/2020

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