Scam artists spread myths, rumors in midst of coronavirus outbreak

Apr 1, 2020, 7:08 AM
coronavirus, hand sanitizer...
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)
(AP Photo/Lynne Sladky)

Rumors, disinformation, and myths about the coronavirus have been everywhere in recent weeks, as scam artists have sought to profit off the fear generated by the outbreak.

Coronavirus crisis has social media ‘ripe for spread of misinformation’

One audio recording circulated on social media and via text last week claiming that drinking hot liquids is a treatment for the virus. That is patently false. Televangelist Jim Bakker was also sued by the state of Missouri for advertising a silver solution on television as a coronavirus cure.

“When people are scared, they’re vulnerable to false hope,” UW Neighborhood Clinics Medical Director Dr. Peter McGough told KIRO Radio.

Times like these are often fueled by anxiety and uncertainty, especially in the face of a virus we still don’t fully understand.

In the midst of that, Dr. McGough says the most concerning disinformation is the predatory kind, when people are trying to sell remedies that he says are essentially snake oil, largely circulated among fringe church-related groups.

His advice: Be cognizant any time someone says they have what appears to be a “miracle” cure for COVID-19. Oftentimes, all it takes is “a single person in some cases” to successfully deceive thousands.

UW professor on how lies are spread on social media

“Take all recommendations for treatment of this virus with a serious grain of salt,” he noted.

He also points out that it’s still safe to rely on information from public health departments, officials like the Mayor and the Governor, and research institutions like the University of Washington.

Ultimately, it’s government and health officials who are going to have the best, most accurate information as the pandemic continues.

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Scam artists spread myths, rumors in midst of coronavirus outbreak