Several Georgia law enforcement agencies are cautioning residents to be mindful of scammers who are going door-to-door offering to sell coronavirus-related tests and cures.
There is no cure for COVID-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, and tests in Georgia are so scarce they are being reserved for health care workers, first responders and those who are seriously ill.
In Morgan County, deputies cited five people Wednesday evening after receiving tips they were going door-to-door in a single car and offering to test people for the virus, which has sickened at least 420 people in the state and killed 13.
“We received statements from all (five) of these individuals and spoke with some of the potential victims that they had contact with,” deputies said in a news release. “All of these individuals were issued citations for peddling without a license.”
Gov. Brian Kemp on Thursday addressed the shortage of testing kits in the state, saying mobile testing sites have been deployed to certain regions of Georgia, with more on the way.
As of Friday, however, fewer than 2,400 residents had been tested for the highly contagious virus, with 420 tests coming back positive, according to the latest data from the Georgia Department of Public Health.
“We must start prioritizing COVID-19 tests for our most vulnerable populations as well as the people responsible for their care and safety,” Kemp said. “Georgia’s elderly; those with chronic, underlying health conditions; those who live in a long-term care facility like an assisted living facility or nursing home; and those serving on the front lines as a healthcare worker, first responder, long-term care facility staffer, or law enforcement need these tests. The best way to serve the public is to protect the people who are protecting us.”
According to Morgan County investigators, the five people selling fake coronavirus tests tried to scam residents at multiple locations in Madison and Rutledge over a two-day period.
“A couple of people gave them information like their name, date of birth and address, but nobody gave them a Social Security number and no one has reported that they gave them any money,” Lt. Brandon Sellers said Friday, adding that the suspects are preying on people’s fears. “They’re trying to take advantage of the current situation that everybody’s in.”
Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr has also cautioned residents to remain mindful of scammers as first responders and hospitals across the state start to see the effects of the global pandemic.
In a statement Friday, Carr warned consumers to be on the lookout for any advertisements, websites or promotions offering to sell products that prevent or cure COVID-19.
“Scammers may try to take advantage of consumers during a time when fears and health concerns are at an all-time high,” Carr said. “At best, these fake cures are simply a waste of money, while at worst, they can have dire consequences.”
The statement included a list of companies that have received warning letters from the Federal Trade Commission and Food and Drug Administration for selling “unapproved or misbranded products” that the companies claimed could treat or prevent the virus.
“There are many misinformation campaigns circulating that are designed to deceive and disrupt, and we don’t want Georgians to fall victim,” Carr said in the statement. “... We’re joining local law enforcement agencies across Georgia in urging Georgians to be very skeptical of those who are going door-to-door or driving around town offering COVID-19 testing. Do your homework. Visit the Georgia Department of Public Health or the CDC’s websites for more on testing.”
Carr’s office also warned against drinking a product called “Miracle Mineral Solution” or “MMS,” which has been touted as a way to prevent coronavirus and cure a myriad of other illnesses, including cancer and HIV/AIDS.
“The FDA warns that this product is essentially a ‘dangerous bleach’ that could cause severe vomiting and acute liver failure,” Carr said.
Residents were also urged to avoid products made by Vital Silver, Aromatherapy Ltd., N-ergetics, GuruNanda LLC, Vivify Holistic Clinic, Herbal Amy LLC, and products sold on the “Jim Bakker Show.”
Those wishing to report potential scams in Georgia are asked to contact the attorney general’s Consumer Protection Division at 404-651-8600.
Morgan County deputies said the department’s investigation into the five alleged scammers is ongoing and additional charges are possible. Residents who were approached by the suspects and offered coronavirus testing are asked to call deputies at 706-342-9546.