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Myth Busters

How to Protect Yourself Against Coronavirus (COVID-19) Scams and Myths

There is a lot of information circulating about the coronavirus (COVID-19), and it’s hard to make sense of it all.  Unfortunately, scams and myths are also spreading, so it is important to know the rumors from the facts to protect yourself and your family.  Go to trusted sources for information like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Iowa Department of Public Health, and local government.  Stay up to date on the coronavirus developments issued by health authorities and follow their guidance.  

To help you stay safe: 

  • DO NOT drink, inhale, or expose your skin to poisonous and unsafe substances and environments.
  • DO NOT put things in your nose that are sharp, hot, or bubbly. 
  • DO NOT give your social security number, bank information, credit card, and other personal information to anyone who calls, emails, texts, or requests in person or otherwise.  
  • DO NOT donate or invest until you've done your homework. 
  • DO NOT believe in home tests, cures, and vaccines that have not been approved by the FDA. 
  • DO  NOT open open emails and texts that look suspicious.  
  • DO NOT buy items that are sketchy and priced too high. 

Below are some general questions and answers to help protect yourself against rumors, myths, unapproved products and false or misleading claims, scams, and misinformation.

Warm Weather

Q: Does warm weather or sitting in the sun prevent me from getting the coronavirus?

A:  Do not use sunlight or UV light as a preventive measure or to sterilize your skin because that can be harmful to your skin and health.  You can catch the coronavirus no matter how hot or sunny the weather is.  There is no evidence that sun exposure kills the coronavirus.  The best way to protect yourself is prevention of the virus.  Clean your hands frequently and thoroughly and avoid touching your eyes, mouth, and nose. Practice social distancing and stay home as much as possible.

Bleach and Other Substances

Q:  Can I protect myself protect against COVID-19 by drinking bleach or rubbing alcohol or fish tank cleaner?

A:  Do not drink or put up your nose chemicals like bleach, rubbing alcohol, fish tank cleaner, or other unsafe substances.  Do not use chlorine, bleach, or any harsh chemical to sanitize your skin. These harmful/poisonous substances and can be dangerous to your health and body.  Home "remedies" and "cures" do not prevent or treat coronavirus   At this time, there is no cure for COVID-19.  Follow the guidelines issued by the CDC and IDPH and public health officials.  

Medicines, Vaccines, Products

Q:  Are there medicines and vaccines to prevent or treat the coronavirus?

A:  Watch out for companies selling unapproved products such as teas, oils, supplements that claim to treat or prevent COVID-19.  To date, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has not approved any drugs or vaccine specifically for the treatment of COVID-19.  Products that have not been tested for safety and effectiveness by the FDA may be harmful to your health.  

Home tests

Q:  I heard there are at-home test kits. Is it legitimate?

A:  Ignore offers for home test kits.  At this time, the FDA has not authorized any test that is available to purchase for testing yourself at home for COVID-19.   If you are wondering if you need to be tested, use the CDC symptom checker.  You should also call your healthcare provider with questions.  

5G Mobile Network

Q: Can 5G mobile networks spread COVID-19?

A:  Viruses cannot travel on radio waves/mobile networks.  COVID-19 is spread through respiratory droplets when an infected person sneezes, coughs, or speaks.   People can also be infected by touching a contaminated surface and then their eyes, mouth or nose. 

Cybersecurity

Q:  I got an email that looks like it’s from the World Health Organization.  Should I open it?

A:   Do not open messages or links that look suspicious or unfamiliar.  Scammers are sending emails that claim to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization (who) or experts saying that they have information about the coronavirus.  Those links may contain computer viruses harmful to your computer or phone. It may also allow the cybercriminals to access personal information and financial data which could lead to identity theft.  Go directly to those organization’s websites or call the official organization to verify information.

Financial Scams

Q:  I got an email, text, or call saying I could get financial help. Is this legitimate?

A:  Do not give your Social Security number, bank account, passwords, or credit card number to anyone who calls or sends you emails and texts. Scammers are pretending to be the government or other experts and claiming that they can get you financial help during the COVID-19 pandemic.  Do not trust someone who offers financial help and then asks for money or personal information. 

Fake Charities

Q:  I have been getting requests to donate money to charities.  How do I know if it’s a scam?

A:  Don’t pay by gift card, cash, or wire transfer.  Research any organizations or charities purporting to be raising funds for victims of the coronavirus to ensure that your donations are legitimately supporting your cause. You can look up how much goes to the charity and view their ratings and reports.  The Federal Trade Commission offers advice on how to donate wisely.

Investment Fraud

Q:  I’ve seen promotions to invest in companies claiming their products prevent or cure coronavirus. 

A:  Don’t make your investment decision based solely on unsolicited emails and messages.  Watch out for online promotions claiming the products or services of certain publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure the disease and that the stock of these companies will soar as a result.  These claims may be fraudulent, and you can lose money.  Investigate before you invest.  The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission offers some tips on what you can do to avoid investment fraud.

Price Gouging

Q:  I need to buy hand sanitizer, masks, and some other some essential items, but the prices seem really high.  Can sellers charge that much?

A:  If the product looks sketchy or the price seems too high, don’t buy it.  Price gouging is illegal.  It is illegal to charge excessive prices for products and services needed by disaster victims whether they are items sold in stores, online, or on social media.  Plan ahead.  Have extra items on hand (but don’t hoard) in case you need it.  Shop from trusted places and sellers.  Read product labels and read product reviews before making a purchase. 

Stimulus Relief Checks

Q:  Do I need to sign up to get my stimulus relief check and can I get it early?  

A: Do not give anyone your personal information such as social security number or bank information.  The federal government is sending relief checks to help Americans in need.  Scammers are taking advantage of the situation claiming they can help you receive your check early.  You don’t need to “sign up” for anything or provide personal information.  The payment is automatic for most taxpayers. No further action is needed by taxpayers who filed tax returns in 2018 and 2019 and most seniors and retirees. The federal government likely has the information they need to send you money to those who qualify.  If you need to give the IRS your bank information for direct deposit that they don’t already have or if you have a new address for check payments, visit the IRS’s website.  The IRS website also has information for non-filers, eligibility guidelines, and status of payments. 

Q:  Where can I get reliable health information on the coronavirus?

A:  The national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, state, and local health agencies provide important information to help prepare for and protect against the coronavirus.  Public health officials have issued guidelines to limit the spread of the coronavirus:  stay home if you're sick, wash your hands often for at least 20 seconds, use hand sanitizer if a sink is not available, disinfect surface areas, practice social distancing, and stay in touch with your doctor.