DENVER — Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser issued a warning Thursday alerting people to be wary of products that falsely claim they cure the COVID-19 virus, and scam attempts to get money to purportedly help those with the disease.
“Scammers take advantage of natural disasters and emergencies,” Weiser said in a press release. “By learning how to avoid scams related to coronavirus, we can work together to ensure no one in our state is taken in by these malicious attempts to defraud Colorado consumers during this public health emergency.”
Weiser said there have been numerous reports in recent weeks about scammers who have established websites to sell bogus products. Some are using fake emails, text messages and social media to lure consumers into giving them money and releasing personal information.
He said some also are asking consumers to donate to victims, sending malicious email attachments or marketing fake treatments.
This week, for example, Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt filed a federal lawsuit against televangelist Jim Bakker and his Morningside Church Productions company, which produces his Jim Bakker Show Ministry.
Bakker last month starting pushing a product on his show called Silver Solution, a solution of tiny silver particles suspended in a liquid base.
Schmitt’s lawsuit said Bakker violated Missouri law “by falsely promising to consumers that Silver Solutions can cure, eliminate, kill or deactivate coronavirus and/or boost elderly consumers’ immune system and help keep them healthy when there is, in fact, no vaccine, pill, potion or other product available to treat or cure coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)”
Earlier this week, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, which issued similar scam warnings, wrote letters to seven sellers of “unapproved and misbranded products,” including Bakker’s Silver Solution.
The agencies said the companies have no evidence to back up their claims, as required by law, that their products work.
“There are no approved vaccines, drugs or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus,” the FDA says.
The AARP, the nation’s largest advocacy group for older persons, issued similar scam warnings this week, saying some fake websites are offering such things as surgical masks and disinfecting supplies, but not actually supplying those products after being paid.
Weiser offers some tips to consumers to avoid being scammed:
n Don’t trust online offers of vaccinations.
n Don’t click on links from unknown sources.
n Be wary of emails from such sources as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or experts claiming they have information about the virus.
n Be cautious of charity sites that ask for cash, gift cards or wired money.
Weiser said his office’s Consumer Protection Division has been in contact with Amazon to coordinate efforts to address potential price gouging on such things as paper products, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizers and soaps.
He also asks residents to contact his office at www.StopFraudColorado.gov or call 800-222-4444 to report suspected scams.