How scammers are trying to exploit the coronavirus pandemic

How to avoid coronavirus treatment scams

The Justice Department announced its first enforcement action against alleged coronavirus fraud. It obtained a temporary restraining order Sunday against coronavirusmedicalkit.com, a website that claimed to offer consumers access to coronavirus vaccine kits.

There are currently no vaccines to treat this disease.

CBS News consumer investigative correspondent Anna Werner said the website claimed to offer vaccine kits from the World Health Organization, for a $4.95 shipping charge. "They said if you added water, it would work," Werner said. "Of course we know that there are no vaccine kits available.

"If you do happen to see one of these things, you can contact your state attorney general's office. But no, these are not vaccine kits."

Co-host Gayle King asked, "Are there any approved at-home testing kits anywhere that are legit?"

"No, there aren't," Werner replied. "It's important to make clear to people there are no at-home testing kits. The FDA has not authorized any home testing kits at all for use. If you see something that says, 'Hey, you can test yourself at home,' it's not a real deal here."

Werner noted some recent coronavirus-related scam products. "Customs and Border Protection has been tweeting photos of items that it has seized," said Werner. "One of them is sort of like a box of little vials [claiming to be] either at-home treatments or a treatment kit. The acting commissioner said on Twitter that police in the U.K. arrested a man for selling those kits."

Also seized earlier this month: counterfeit COVID-19 test kits that came through Los Angeles International Airport, labeled as "purified water vials."

Werner said, "These are the kind of things that people, you might call them creative or just call them scammers frankly, are saying 'I can make a quick buck off of this. Sell something to people.' One of these things actually had what might be dangerous ingredients to it. So, there are dangers there, too."

Co-host Tony Dokoupil asked, "What are people listening to when it comes to robocalls?"

"The robocallers have jumped into this—I'm sure you're not surprised to hear this," Werner said. "They're saying, 'Hey, we can clean your home air ducts, your air filters, for coronavirus.' 'We also are going to help you with your student loan payments.' You've heard that one before. And even the social security scammers are jumping in and saying, 'Hey, there's going to be something with the coronavirus and your social security number.' So, be careful about these calls. If you get one of these calls, just hang up."

  • David Morgan

    David Morgan is a senior editor at CBSNews.com and cbssundaymorning.com.

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