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Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, the FTC has released dozens of warning letters against people trying to make an illegal buck off the Coronavirus. More than a month in, it seems like a good time to look back at what’s happened. If you follow this blog, you’ll know these have been busy weeks – with advice about spotting the many scams we’re all facing, news of the warning letters sent on a wide range of scams, and some enforcement actions filed.

You might wonder: why just send letters? Why not just sue the !*$@&#? Fair question. But the letters are working. And, given the scope of the scams out there right now, we want to get the best and fastest results we can with the most efficient tool we have. Right now, for these Coronavirus-related issues, that’s warning letters.

In general, here’s how it goes:

  • We spot someone advertising something with no proof that it works – and, in many cases, telling outright lies about its wonders.
  • We send a letter pointing out the illegal things they’re doing.
  • They then have 48 hours to tell us what they’ve done to resolve the problems we’ve raised.

In nearly all cases so far, those who get the letters have stopped making the false claims or selling the scammy thing – whether cures from a product or earnings from a work-at-home scheme. Within 48 hours: no more lying to people, no more stealing people’s money. During a crisis like this, we’ve prioritized stopping as many bad actors as we can, as quickly as we can. And when a warning letter will do that, we’ll take that win.

Most of the letters sent so far relate to the first scams out of the box: the treatments and cures – many of which we heard about from you. These treatments and cures were, of course, not at all what they claimed to be. The sellers peddled everything from teas and essential oils to IV or ozone “therapies,” stem cell treatments, and high doses of Vitamin C. All of these products have had one thing in common: there was no evidence – none – that they work against the Coronavirus.

The warning letters are working in other areas, too. We’ve sent 13 letters to VoIP service providers and other companies, telling them we see how they’re helping illegal telemarketers or robocallers make calls related to COVID-19, and telling them to cut it out. And, just two weeks ago, we sent 10 letters to multi-level marketing (MLM) companies for making exaggerated earnings claims for their business opportunity selling fake Coronavirus treatments or cures from home. These companies hit the daily double: false income claims for their work-at-home program and unsubstantiated health claims for their products. 

But sometimes you need more firepower to get the desired result. It took a lawsuit to stop a company that, allegedly, pretended to be affiliated with the Small Business Administration’s Paycheck Protection Program, fooling hundreds – if not thousands – of small businesses. And, last week, we filed suit against Whole Leaf Organics for allegedly claiming to treat not only the Coronavirus, but also cancer with CBD. Both cases are now pending.

What we know about COVID-19 changes every week. And right now, the scammers are shifting their focus to the economic impact payments, among other things, to find new ways to get your money or information. But here are some things that remain true:

  • Scammers are peddling cures and treatments with no proof they work. Remember: right now, there is nothing that has been proven to prevent COVID-19.
  • Anyone who tells you to pay them by gift card, money transfer, cash, or Bitcoin is a scammer. Period. And, if they say they’re from the government, they’re not.
  • Never give your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number to anyone who contacts you. Again, not even if they say they’re from the government.

If you remember those three things, and share them in your community, we can cut scammers’ success rates. Keep up with the latest from the FTC by signing up for Consumer Alerts. And, when you spot a scam, tell the FTC: Because you can help us keep working to put a stop to these scams.


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The purpose of this blog and its comments section is to inform readers about Federal Trade Commission activity, and share information to help them avoid, report, and recover from fraud, scams, and bad business practices. Your thoughts, ideas, and concerns are welcome, and we encourage comments. But keep in mind, this is a moderated blog. We review all comments before they are posted, and we won’t post comments that don’t comply with our commenting policy. We expect commenters to treat each other and the blog writers with respect.

  • We won’t post off-topic comments, repeated identical comments, or comments that include sales pitches or promotions.
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  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
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May 08, 2020
Thank you for all the information and your efforts that you provide to keep us up to date in all categories.
Validated cynic
May 08, 2020
Each time I get scammer communications it seems I've already read about it in one of your consumer alerts. As I look at my federal tax dollars collected each year, I pretend all mine went to you guys.
May 08, 2020
Thank you very much! I am 70 and a great target for scams.
May 08, 2020
This time at home seems to have given the scammer time to get us. Thanks for the heads up.
May 08, 2020
Thank you! Keep up the important job!
May 08, 2020
I very much appreciate these regular updates on current scams, which both affirm my assessment of calls and emails I've received and prepare me for the next hoaxes coming down the pipe.
May 08, 2020
Thanks for the info really helps
May 09, 2020
thank you,so very much!i always look forward to reading from this site.keep up the great work
May 09, 2020
I had a robo call 617-849-8810, dated 5/8/20. I didn't answer the call. So I don't know why I was being called. My caller ID came through as a Robo Call. Hope this helps! Thanks for all that you do for people that are willing to work for their money.
May 09, 2020
You Rock!!!
May 09, 2020
Thanks.... It's good to know what the basis for the work being done
John C
May 10, 2020
Thank You for the great work you folks are doing! You have given timely alerts and guidance about many issues. I appreciate your department.
May 11, 2020
I made a report about being scammed $2000, but when i submitted the report it deleted all my information?
May 13, 2020
Thank you! Keep up the important job!