Staying Aware of Coronavirus Hoaxes and Misinformation

(Updated April 3, 2020)
March 26, 2020 

Note: See the previous CAST blog posts for online learning resources and food safety. 

CAST’s mission focuses on providing balanced, credible science-based information about food and agriculture. With the current COVID-19 situation, we will use this space to provide regular updates on news, announcements, and pertinent educational resource material related to agriculture, science, our members, and CAST activities. 

Spotting Scams and Identifying Misinformation

Recently, individuals across the United States have been targeted to buy into schemes that will supposedly keep them healthy during the COVID-19 pandemic. In this segment, we provide information about fraudulent activity and scams, steps to keep you safe from malicious intent, and how to spot misinformation.  

Know the Facts; Avoid Scams 
Most scams play on people’s fears by offering protection from COVID-19 through supplies (e.g., masks and medical equipment), miracle cures (e.g., vaccines), and free testing kits. (Buzzfeed has been keeping a list of Coronavirus hoaxes you can reference.)  Coronavirus is causing more than just physical harm to some people. It’s also inflicting severe financial harm, as scammers try to bilk the well-intentioned or uninformed of their cash. No matter the content, it is important to understand three basic facts to arm yourself against scams: 

  1. Currently, there is no cure for COVID-19. 
  2. Washing your hands for 20 seconds with soap and water breaks down the virus, essentially destroying it. (Learn more from the World Health Organization, and how soap works from Dr. Kevin Folta.)
  3. Know the symptoms: fever, cough, and shortness of breath. If you have these symptoms, regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity, you should isolate yourself from others immediately and call your doctor. 

Here are more key facts about the coronavirus from the CDC. 

The Federal Trade Commission says the following steps can help you stay safe from Coronavirus scams: 

If you’re interested in more tips about identifying and avoiding scams, here are some sources to check out: 

If you are aware of any COVID-19 related scams, report them here

Tips to Spot Misinformation 
Because of the fast-paced developments about the coronavirus, it’s difficult to take time to assess sources. The best credible sources for information are: 

Most of us, however, rely on our social media feeds and friends and family to update us on what is going on. Unfortunately, bad information makes it through these channels, even if the intent was well-meant. Check out tips to help you navigate through the online milieu: 

Stay Updated with Us 
CAST is adjusting its communications during the coronavirus pandemic. You can stay updated through regular postings via our blog, social media pages, and Friday Notes e-newsletter. 

You can also stay updated on CAST events by joining our mailing list

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