Columns and Letters

Column: Beware of scams exploiting coronavirus fears

- Bonny H.J. MacIsaac

    So much going on day to day, really hour by hour lately. In February, I started hearing of scams circulating regarding COVID-19, taking advantage of fears surrounding the coronavirus.  I swear some scammers will stop at nothing! Public Health Officials are clear that there is no pill, vaccine, or supplement that can cure or prevent the virus.
    One of the more notable snake oil salesmen, ordered to cease and desist is disgraced televangelist Jim Bakker. The pitch suggesting a ‘miracle cure' went like this - “This influenza that is now circling the globe, you’re saying that Silver Solution would be effective?” Bakker asked the naturopathic doctor Sherrill Sellman on his February 12th show, holding up a bottle of the product.
    “Silver Solution hadn’t been tested on the current strain of the coronavirus,” Sellman responded, but “it has been tested on other strains of the coronavirus, and has been able to eliminate it within 12 hours. Totally eliminates it, kills it, deactivates it.”
    Later, on the same episode, Sellman said of the product, “it has been proven by the government that it has the ability to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on, including SARS and HIV.” (The show's website took down its archived version of the episode, which ran February 12th.)
    The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission told the Bakker Show that his pitch for his ‘Silver Solution,' had crossed the line. On March 3rd, New York Attorney General Leticia James also warned Bakker to stop selling the snake-oil cures. A week later, the state of Missouri filed a lawsuit against Bakker and his production company to stop them from advertising or selling Silver Solution and related products as treatments for the coronavirus. Bakker's company is based in Missouri.
    The FTC and the FDA sent similar warnings to six other companies that falsely advertised an assortment of natural and herbal remedies, dietary supplements and colloidal silver as effective against coronavirus. These are just a few examples of people trying to capitalize on this pandemic. There are so many more.
    The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre has also issued an alert! As COVID-19 continues to spread globally, watch out for associated scams. Fraudsters want to profit from consumers' fears, uncertainties and misinformation. Fraudsters are exploiting the crisis to facilitate fraud and cyber crime.
Protect yourself, beware of:
– Spoofed government, health care, or research information.
– Unsolicited calls, emails, and texts giving medical advice or requesting urgent action or payment.
– If you didn't initiate contact, you don't know who you're communicating to.
– Never respond or click on suspicious links and attachments.
– Never give out your personal or financial details.
– Unauthorized or fraudulent charities requesting money for victims, products, or research.
Don't be pressured into making a donation.
Verify that a charity is registered.
High-priced or low-quality products purchased in bulk by consumers and resold for profit.
These items may be expired and/or dangerous to your health.
Questionable offers, such as: miracle cures, herbal remedies, vaccinations, faster testing.
Fake and deceptive online ads, including: cleaning products, hand sanitizers, other items in high demand.
Reported scams: Fraudsters are posing as:
– Cleaning or heating companies, offering duct cleaning services or air filters to protect from COVID-19.
– Local and provincial hydro/electrical power companies, threatening to disconnect your power for non-payment.
– Centers for Disease Control and Prevention or the World Health Organization, offering fake lists for sale of COVID-19 infected people in your neighbourhood.
– Public Health Agency of Canada, giving false results saying you have been tested positive for COVID-19. Thus, tricking you into confirming your health card and credit card numbers for a prescription.
– Red Cross and other known charities, offering free medical products (e.g. masks) for a donation.
Government departments, sending out coronavirus-themed phishing emails:
– Tricking you into opening malicious attachments.
– Tricking you to reveal sensitive personal and financial details.
Financial advisors
– Pressuring people to invest in hot new stocks related to the disease.
– Offering financial aid and/or loans to help you get through the shut downs.
– Door-to-door sales people, selling household decontamination services.
Private companies
–Offering fast COVID-19 tests for sale. Only hospitals can perform the tests. No other tests are genuine or guaranteed to provide accurate results.
– Selling fraudulent products that claim to treat or prevent the disease. Unapproved drugs threaten public health and violate federal law.
Trusted resources and advice
Reference the latest health information from these legitimate sources:
– Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) (Public Health Agency of Canada).
– Coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak (World Health Organization).
– Contact your insurance provider to answer any health insurance questions.
– Make sure you have anti-virus software installed and keep your operating system up to date.
    Thanks to the experts at the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre for this excellent information! March is fraud prevention month in Canada and you can keep up with the latest by logging onto their website:
    Just for your information, in 2019, the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre (CAFC) received 46,317 reports of fraud from Canadians, where 19,285 were victims with a total reported loss of $98 million!
    You can get up-to-date and accurate information on the Nova Scotia Government website
    Since many of us are home more these days due to the State of Emergency being declared in the province, we are trying to keep ourselves busy. Disinfecting and cleaning is certainly on everyone's mind lately. Actually, good deep cleaning of our abode before the warm sunny weather arrives helps improve our mental well being too, so say the experts.
    As we take out our cleaning supplies, it’s a good time to remind everyone about safety around chemical cleaning products. Household chemical products are among the top products responsible for injuries and deaths in children under the age of five years. Bad taste and odours often do not keep children away from household chemical products. Even a small amount of a chemical product can be harmful to a child.
Health Canada offers the following reminders:
Read the label before you buy or use a household chemical product.
– Follow the instructions every time you use a household chemical. By law, the label must include instructions on how to use and store the product safely. It must also show warnings of potential hazards.
– By law, household chemical products must have a bordered label on the back or side. Inside the border, you will find instructions for safe use and first aid treatment, and a list of harmful substances in the product.
– Look for hazard symbols on the front of the product. If you don't already know what these symbols mean, learn them. If you follow the instructions, you could prevent an injury. You could even save a life.
– Do not cover up or remove the labels from household chemical products.
Use household chemical products carefully, especially around children.
– Never mix household chemical products together. Some mixtures can produce harmful gases.
– Check that child-resistant closures are in good working order.
– Child-resistant does not mean child-proof. Close the cap on the container all the way even if you set it down for just a moment.
– Teach children that hazard symbols mean danger! Do not touch.
– Post emergency phone numbers by your telephone and/or program the number into your phone.
Store household chemical products safely.
– Store all household chemical products in their original containers. Keep all safety information.
– Keep all household chemical products safely stored where children cannot see or reach them.
– Try not to store products that may release harmful fumes or catch fire inside your home. These items include paints, solvents, gasoline, fuels, or varnishes. Store them according to the instructions on the product's label in a separate building if you can, or in an area that is well vented to the outside.
Dispose of leftover household chemical products safely.
– Buy only the amount you need for the job so there is no waste.
– Check your city or town's guidelines for instructions on how to dispose of chemicals and other hazardous waste.
– Burn household chemical containers.
– Pour the contents down the drain unless directed.
– Inappropriately re-use empty containers.
If someone has been in contact with a household chemical product and you think they may have been harmed:
– Call a Poison Control Centre or 911 immediately! You can find phone numbers for the Poison Control Centre nearest you at the front of your local telephone book. Keep emergency numbers by your telephone just in case.
– Tell the person who answers the phone what the product label says. There should also be first aid instructions on the back or side of the product surrounded by a border.
– Bring the product with you when you go for help.
    Thanks to the folks at Health Canada for this timely information! If you want more info on this topic check out their website at






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