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Feds crackdown on unsupported COVID-19 treatment claims

Officials warn about COVID-19 social media posts
Posted at 4:50 PM, Mar 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-04-16 17:01:39-04

Federal investigators are working hard to shut down false claims about treatments or cures for Coronavirus. Investigative Reporter Patrick Nelson shows us why you'll want to be skeptical about ads and shared posts on social media.

You may find you have some extra time to browse social media these days. Consumer protection investigators want you to keep in mind your news feed can be a breeding ground for dangerous advertising and false claims when it comes to Coronavirus.

"Anytime there is a climate of fear where people are anxious, are desperate, there are fraudsters out there who will prey on that. So we are now more vulnerable to fraud than we were previously," said Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser.

The Federal Trade Commission has been busy working to shut down false advertising claims sending letters to several companies advertising products like teas and essential oils as a way to treat or prevent the Coronavirus.

"You are going to see a lot of claims being made on social media. A lot of offers and in many cases they are going to be fraud. People try to take advantage of those of us looking at social media who may want to believe there is a cure out there," said Weiser.

The government has approved drug testing but the FDA has not approved any vaccines or any products as an official treatment or cure for Coronavirus. The FDA says the sale and promotion of products as a potential cure is a threat to public health. Keep in mind, the Colorado Attorney General warns these sales pitches might just be a way to get you to click a phishing link.

"Be careful on following up links on social media that can actually compromise your data, take money from you, or otherwise harm you," said Weiser.

What’s the FTC’s advice for other companies thinking about making similar representations?

  • Coronavirus-related advertising claims will be subject to exacting scrutiny. The FTC has a magnifying glass on the marketplace to monitor Coronavirus claims. We’ll be taking a close look at what companies are saying. That also includes an examination of product names, URLs, metatags, and other ways companies can suggest or imply claims to consumers.
  • Don’t even think about marketing a product unless you can support your claims with sound science. Under the FTC Act, claims that a product can prevent or treat a serious disease require the support of well-controlled human clinical studies.
  • Exercise caution in social media. Promoting your Coronavirus-related product on Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, etc., is advertising subject to the FTC Act. If you don’t have solid scientific support, don’t say it in social media.

If you see these type of advertisements, you're urged to report them to the Federal Trade Commission: https://www.ftc.gov/faq/consumer-protection/submit-consumer-complaint-ftc

To report fraud, scams, and even price gouging to the Colorado Attorney General's Office call 800-222-4444 or visit stopfraudcolorado.gov