NEW YORK, NY — Vitamin C injections, music therapy and electromagnetic shields won't protect people from the new coronavirus, but that hasn't stopped hucksters from trying to hawk them as treatments and cures for the deadly disease without fear of punishment.
New York Sen. Chuck Schumer wants the federal government to increase punishments for scammers trying to profit off the coronavirus from warning letters to heavy fines, the longtime lawmaker said in a statement. The Federal Trade Commission has been sending dozens of warnings since March to little effect, Schumer said.
"A waterfall of warnings by the FTC against companies peddling bogus and potentially dangerous claims to treat or cure the coronavirus look like they’re barely having a ripple effect in the marketplace," Schumer said in a statement. "And the drip-drip-drip of outrageous claims might only get worse if the feds don’t take the kid-gloves off and punch back against these coronavirus scammers."
In early May, the federal agency sent an additional 45 warning letters to companies, Schumer said. The letters were the "fourth set" of warning given out to the scammers, the lawmaker said.
Claims made by the scammers range from the farfetched to the fantastical. Schumer cited marketing materials from companies for phony coronavirus treatments such as herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies — all with no scientific evidence backing the claims. One Florida company said that IV injections of Vitamin C would boost users' immune systems to ward off the deadly virus. Another scam marketed "musical medicine" with special pitches and frequencies "to resist the coronavirus."
"Make no mistake: the FTC’s warnings have sounded the alarm here and served as a necessary action, but the old adage of ‘fool me once, shame on you; fool me twice, shame on me,’ applies more than ever in this case. Warnings might not be enough. It’s time to hit the scammers in the same place they are hitting the American consumer: deep in the pocket," Schumer said in a statement.