Miracle Cures: The business of cashing in on coronavirus fears

There is no treatment or vaccine for COVID-19 but that hasn’t stopped some from hawking questionable products and “miracle cures.”

“God gave us this product,” televangelist and convicted fraudster Jim Bakker told his audience recently.

The preacher, who used to host his program in Charlotte, was referring to a blue bottle called “Silver Solution.” For $125, his associates claimed it would “99 percent kill” every known virus – including HIV and SARS - “within 12 hours of exposure to the silver."

A video of the segment had the caption: “A Close Look At What’s Not Being Said About the Coronavirus (Day 1).”

The National Center for Complementary and Integrative Health says similar products, including colloidal silver, have not been proven to be safe or effective for treating any disease.

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“Watch out for people promising miracle cures,” said North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein. “Or selling you some product that will protect you and your family at any inflated price.”

Stein issued a warning Wednesday about schemes tied to the novel coronavirus. He says you should:

  • Be skeptical of miracle cures. Ignore online offers for vaccinations, pharmaceuticals and medicines.
  • Watch for high-priced products  
  • Avoid offers that are only “now or never”
  • Be on alert for email phishing scams
  • Look for unauthorized or fraudulent charities

“Wait don’t think about it. This is a no-brainer. You don’t have to even pray about this,” Bakker’s associate said. “Just do this. You’re protecting yourself and the people around you.”

FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant did a search online and found packs of face masks on Amazon selling for $70 and $250. Experts say the masks do not prevent the spread of the virus. Grant found a six-pack of hand sanitizer selling for $95 on Amazon and a $110 “Pandemic Preparedness Kit” on eBay that included five masks and a small hand sanitizer.

“When bad things happen like this health problem, bad people come out of the woodwork,” said Stein. “They try to steal your hard-earned money.”

Amazon announced it removed one million products for misleading claims and price gouging. Facebook says it has banned ads that cash in on the coronavirus or promise a cure that doesn’t exist.

“Tragedy always tends to bring the worst out in people,” said cyber expert Tom Jelneck. “And this is no exception.