coronavirus scams

New Warning Cautions Consumers About COVID-19 Cures and Treatments

A consumer watchdog says you're throwing your money away if you buy anything that's claimed to prevent, treat, or cure coronavirus.

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Desperation for a COVID-19 cure is shared worldwide, as the virus has now sickened more than 3 million people. But with a vaccine said to be months away at the earliest, some are turning to a number of products that promise a cure today.

Claudia Deeg with California Public Interest Research Group, or CALPIRG, says if you see a treatment advertised: don't buy it.

"As of today, there are no products approved by the FDA to prevent, treat, mitigate, or cure coronavirus," Deeg told NBC Bay Area. "Any products or sellers outright saying their products are effective in this capacity are being dishonest."

You don't have to look too far online to find herbs, potions, pills, and other products that boast a COVID-19 connection. U.S. PIRG, the parent organization of CALPIRG, released a new study on Wednesday that cautions Americans to only use products approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In particular, the PIRG study found a number of solutions containing silver or silver-derived chemicals were advertised for treating coronavirus. These products are sometimes marketed as "nano silver", "colloidal silver", or "ionic silver."

Pictured: some of the products marketed as COVID-19 cures. (Credit: U.S. FDA / NBC Bay Area)

"The major issue with these products — and any drugs containing silver that make disease claims — is that 21years ago the FDA warned that silver products have no adequately-proven benefits," PIRG researchers wrote. "In 1999, the FDA issued a ​final rule​ to establish that all over-the-counter drugs containing colloidal silver ingredients are not recognized as safe or effective for treating any disease or condition and are misbranded."

PIRG concludes other gimmicks -- where you often find typos in ads and glowing testimonials -- will only reduce your bank balance, not your virus risk.

The FDA has sent warning letters to several companies that advertised COVID-19 products. Among them: televangelist Jim Bakker, whose TV program promoted an over-the-counter product it called "Silver Solution." We asked Bakker's company to discuss its endorsement, but we didn't hear back.

If the FDA approves a real coronavirus vaccine, treatment, or cure, it will be a big deal, and big news. We'll let you know about it on NBC Bay Area and at nbcbayarea.com, as will all other legitimate news media. Until then, any claims of a cure you might come across are frauds.

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