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Since the pandemic began, the Federal Trade Commission has sent hundreds of cease and desist letters to companies that claimed their products and therapies can prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19. The sellers promoted their products and services through a variety of outlets, including social media.

Social media platforms have played a major role in conveying information about how to help stop the spread of COVID-19. But just because the information is running on a platform you use doesn’t mean it’s accurate or truthful. Right now, no one can afford to take information at face value. Before you act on a message you’ve seen or before you share it, ask — and answer — these critical questions:

  • Who is the message from? Do I know them? Do I trust them? Am I positive they are who they say they are?
  • What do they want me to do? Just know something — or are they trying to get me to act in some way? Do they want me to buy something, download something, or give up personal info?
  • What evidence supports the message? Use some independent sources to fact-check it — or debunk it. Maybe talk to someone you trust. But always verify, using a few additional sources. Once you’ve done that, does the message still seem accurate? Approaching information by asking and answering these questions can help you sort out what’s helpful…and what’s a scam. So, for example, if the message is about a treatment or cure, you know where to go: Coronavirus.gov.

Bottom line: when you come across information, stop. Talk to someone else. Focus on whether the facts back up the information you’re hearing. Good, solid evidence will point you in the right direction. Then decide what you think and what you want to do with the message – pass it on, act on it, ignore it, or roll your eyes at it. And if you suspect a scam, tell the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov so we can shut the scammers down.

7 Comments


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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.
  • We won’t post comments that include vulgar messages, personal attacks by name, or offensive terms that target specific people or groups.
  • We won’t post threats, defamatory statements, or suggestions or encouragement of illegal activity.
  • We won’t post comments that include personal information, like Social Security numbers, account numbers, home addresses, and email addresses. To file a detailed report about a scam, go to ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

We don't edit comments to remove objectionable content, so please ensure that your comment contains none of the above. The comments posted on this blog become part of the public domain. To protect your privacy and the privacy of other people, please do not include personal information. Opinions in comments that appear in this blog belong to the individuals who expressed them. They do not belong to or represent views of the Federal Trade Commission.

Mark
November 18, 2021
This article is helpful. BUT it does one subtle disservice: it mis-uses the word "information" in a way that indirectly fosters misinterpretation. If something is said that is not true, it is NOT information—it is simply a claim. Unless it is backed up by facts, it cannot properly be described as information. To call all those claims on the social media "information" already lends them a measure of credence to which many of them are not entitled.
Anne
November 18, 2021
I think this would be more valuable if it was more specific. It should have links to reliable sources of info about COVID-19, for example.
JDW465
November 18, 2021
I work in IT cybersecurity and see hundreds of scam calls and social media inquiries but have not seen anything regarding scam COVID cures. Do you have an example of what the verbiage might look like? Or what the scam cures are?
Shirlzey
November 18, 2021
An anti-vac friend keeps sending me "information" from sites that "FactCheck" says is misinformation. When I counter her "information", she tells me all "fact check" sites are run by Big Pharma and (obviously) false. How do I counter her obvious misinformation? (Her "heroes" are Mercola and Joseph Kennedy, Jr.)
Y21N2G3
November 23, 2021
Language or wording is kinda off. Is this article from this year 2021? Some of it seems dated.
Nancy from New York
November 28, 2021
How about another advice: Consult your personal doctor about any Covid treatments.