(NBC News) Worries over coronavirus have also triggered an “infodemic” of falsehoods, scams, conspiracy theories and hazardous health advice, much of it circulating online.
“It’s causing people to spend money on things they shouldn’t and in some cases it could be dangerous,” warns Kevin Loria of Consumer Reports.
The panic is driving product shortages, price gouging and bogus treatments.
The Food and Drug Administration and Federal Trade Commission have sent warning letters to several sellers, including televangelist Jim Bakker, who’s also facing a lawsuit from the state of Missouri, after selling a product he billed as a coronavirus cure.
According to the FDA, there is currently no cure and no product approved for treating the COVID-19 coronavirus.
Tech companies including Google, Twitter and Facebook are working to remove misinformation and ads with false claims on their platforms, displaying trusted links at the top of relevant search results.
Amazon says it’s removed thousands of products for making false claims or price gouging, and even removed some fake books about the virus.
Still, they haven’t been able to get rid of the products as quickly as they’re popping up.
Security researchers also say they’re seeing fake websites popping up about the coronavirus made to phish for sensitive data from consumers that unwittingly click on them.
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