Coronavirus scams are here, spread the word

Posted at 8:13 AM, Mar 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-03-13 19:42:13-04

CLEVELAND — The coronavirus strikes fear into the hearts of many, and that fear is what criminals are counting on. The government is sending out warnings of scams. The Federal Trade Commission told us complaints are starting to come in from our area about these scams. And people from around the country are falling for things like fake emails about the coronavirus.

Plus, some companies are facing harsh letters from the FTC and FDA about unsubstantiated claims the companies made.

"We have been hearing about a number of internet scams,” said Cuyahoga County Health Commissioner Terry Allan during one of his Coronavirus briefings.

“People are getting emails about click on this link to get a vaccine. Click on this link to get a COVID-19 treatment,” Allan said.

At the federal level, U.S. Secret Service knows of victims either clicking "on a link that contained malware or entered their email and password information…"

The government sent out general warnings about supposed cures or prevention with "teas, essential oils, and colloidal silver."

"There are always scammers out there that are trying to take advantage of the public,” said Jon Steiger from the Federal Trade Commission office here in Cleveland. “It’s really sad to see when they take advantage of people who are in fear for their lives,” he said.

The FTC and FDA just sent letters to 7 companies that they said were endorsing and/or selling "...unapproved and misbranded products claiming they can treat or prevent the coronavirus."

"We know that's not true,” said Steiger. “There are no products that can help prevent or cure coronavirus right now."

The letter sent to GuruNanda, LLC said the company's Facebook stated..."municipalities of Wuhan have declared people should us pure essential oils as a preventative therapy."

"We see that you're making claims that have no scientific support. Clean up your act,” said Steiger. received a letter from the feds that cited its Facebook page for saying..."so it's actually widely acknowledged in both science and the medical industry that ionic silver kills coronaviruses..."

"It is so particularly aggravating and disheartening,” said Steiger about the questionable claims.

And the agencies went after the televangelist Jim Bakker and his show about this quote: "Silver Solution has been proven to kill every pathogen it has ever been tested on...and it can kill any of these known viruses..."

"We also know it could be a long time at least 18 months before a vaccine available,” said Allan.

So, health leaders and federal investigators agree, we all need to be aware.

"We know we're not immune from the virus and we're not going to be immune to these scams either," Steiger told us.

"So, please, spread the word about avoiding those scams,” said Allan. “Particularly, our elderly residents who may be preyed upon."

Steiger also mentioned watch out for fake charities.

If you get an email or text, take your time responding. Do your research first before you act.

Additional Coronavirus information and resources:

Below you can find information and resources on novel coronavirus, COVID-19, from local, state, national and international organizations, including the Cuyahoga County Board of Health, the Ohio Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization.

News 5 will continue to update this section with new information, resources, links, and more as it is made available.

COVID-19/2019 Novel Coronavirus Overview from the CDC:

What is coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19)? Coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) is a respiratory illness that can spread from person to person. The virus that causes COVID-19 is a novel coronavirus that was first identified during an investigation into an outbreak in Wuhan, China.

Can people in the U.S. get COVID-19? Yes. COVID-19 is spreading from person to person in parts of the United States. Risk of infection with COVID-19 is higher for people who are close contacts of someone known to have COVID-19, for example healthcare workers, or household members. Other people at higher risk for infection are those who live in or have recently been in an area with ongoing spread of COVID-19. Learn more about places with ongoing spread here.

Have there been cases of COVID-19 in the U.S.? Yes. The first case of COVID-19 in the United States was reported on January 21, 2020. The current count of cases of COVID-19 in the United States is available on CDC’s webpage here.

How does COVID-19 spread? The virus that causes COVID-19 probably emerged from an animal source, but is now spreading from person to person. The virus is thought to spread mainly between people who are in close contact with one another (within about 6 feet) through respiratory droplets produced when an infected person coughs or sneezes. It also may be possible that a person can get COVID-19 by touching a surface or object that has the virus on it and then touching their own mouth, nose, or possibly their eyes, but this is not thought to be the main way the virus spreads. Learn what is known about the spread of newly emerged coronaviruses here.

Download and read the CDC's full "What you need to know about coronavirus disease (COVID-19)" information sheet here.

Global case numbers are reported by the World Health Organization (WHO) in their coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) situation report.


Coronavirus in Ohio:

As of Wednesday March 11, there were four confirmed cases of coronavirus in Ohio — three in Cuyahoga County, outside of Cleveland, and one in Stark County. Twenty four persons were under investigation for the disease. See the Coronavirus information page on the Ohio Department of Health's website for the latest numbers of confirmed cases and persons under investigation.

According to the governor, two of the confirmed cases are from a married couple that went on a cruise on the Nile River. The third Cuyahoga County case is from a person that went to the AIPAC conference in Washington D.C. According to a cantor from the Jewish Temple in Beachwood, 160 people from Cleveland attended the conference. The three patients are between 54 and 56-years-old, according to officials. Read more on those cases here.

On Wednesday, health officials announced a fourth case in Ohio - a man in his mid-50s in Stark County. This case is the first example in the state of "community spread," meaning the man had not traveled out of the country, and had no known contact with an international traveler. Read more on that case here.

On Tuesday, after consulting with medical experts, Gov. DeWine announced wide-ranging, statewide recommendations, including holding sporting events without spectators and having colleges and universities switch to remote learning.

Then, on Wednesday, Gov. DeWine issued an order limiting the number of visitors to nursing homes and assisted living facilities in Ohio, and announced he would soon be issuing an order limiting public gatherings across the state.

Coronavirus' Impacts in Northeast Ohio:

Since the announcement of confirmed cases in Ohio, a number of local events, schools, facilities and more have announced closures, cancellations, postponements and changes as a result of coronavirus. News 5 is working to keep this information updated in the links below:

Here's a list of things in Northeast Ohio closed due to coronavirus concerns

Multiple Ohio colleges suspend in-person classes due to coronavirus concerns

The City of Cleveland has canceled its St. Patrick's Day Parade and the Cleveland International Film Festival, and issued a civil emergency in response to COVID-19.

More resources from News 5 and affiliates:

News 5's Coronavirus continuing coverage page

Worldwide Coronavirus Tracker from Johns Hopkins University

EPA releases list of approved disinfectants to use against COVID-19

How to protect yourself from coronavirus when flying

Think you may have the coronavirus? Here’s what to do

A state of emergency was issued in Ohio following 3 positive COVID-19 cases. Here's what it means.

Cuyahoga County Medical Director answers your questions about coronavirus


The symptoms of coronavirus are fever and lower respiratory tract issues, such as cough and shortness of breath, according to the Cuyahoga County Board of Health.

The three symptoms of coronavirus, according to the CDC


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