The coronavirus crisis presents an irresistible opportunity for some to capitalize on the rising public panic, but Attorney General Bill Barr has stepped in to cut them off at the knees.
Barr issued a memo on Monday to all U.S. attorneys, ordering them to crack down on “wrongdoers seeking to profit from public panic.”
Don’t waste a good crisis
Barr’s memo is aimed at curbing the rise of fake coronavirus cures sold online, among other scams and fraudulent activity that capitalizes on the fear of the unknown that the entire world is currently experiencing.
“In addition to ensuring that the justice system can continue functioning during the current national crisis, it is essential that the Department of Justice remain vigilant in detecting, investigating, and prosecuting wrongdoing related to the crisis,” Barr’s memo read.
“In particular, there have been reports of individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud, reports of phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and reports of malware being inserted onto mobile apps designed to track the spread of the virus.”
Barr warned that this type of criminal activity “cannot be tolerated,” and declared that “every U.S. Attorney’s office is thus hereby directed to prioritize the detection, investigation, and prosecution of all criminal conduct related to the current pandemic.”
A novel virus calls for a novel cure
Due to the nature of the coronavirus, there is no specific anti-viral treatment, and very little is known about the spread, effects, and long-term consequences of coronavirus infections.
Because of this, unfounded claims regarding the coronavirus and its accompanying disease, COVID-19, are running rampant as the world panics about the implications of the disease’s spread.
Myths and lies about COVID-19 treatments are so prevalent that the World Health Organization released a fact sheet debunking many of these fraudulent claims, such as that ultraviolet disinfection lamps should be used to sanitize hands, spraying alcohol or chlorine all over one’s body will kill the virus, and eating garlic will prevent infection.
More sinister scams include “‘Coronavirus Protocol’ products like a Coronavirus Boneset Tea and Coronavirus Core Tincture,” Forbes reported on Monday.
The FTC and FDA also targeted seven companies that were peddling their proprietary coronavirus “cures,” including Jim Bakker and The Jim Bakker Show, Vital Silver, Vivify Holistic Clinic and Quinessence Aromatherapy Ltd. All seven companies have been busted selling products that falsely claim to cure COVID-19.
It’s not all bad news though, as University of Queensland infectious disease researchers say they may have discovered a combination of anti-malarial and anti-HIV drugs that show promising results against the novel coronavirus, News.com.au reported on Monday.