Social media plays a tricky role in circulating information especially regarding something in which people are more than interested such as the Coronavirus pandemic. A new study presents that social media is flooded with coronavirus related online scams including fake health news and financial information.
Thousands of people have bought ‘home-based coronavirus diagnostic kits’ which they thought were genuine. Many others have bought quick-relief medicines and traditional medicines for treating coronavirus. This information has been extracted from analyzing millions of social media accounts from Twitter and Instagram mainly.
Timothy Mackey from the University of California is the first author of this study. According to him, the data shared between March and May was sufficient to identify the coronavirus related online scams especially regarding health products which can put consumer’s health at risk. The complete study findings are now published in the Journal of Medical Internet Research Public Health and Surveillance.
On social media, the coronavirus related online scams can be identified into three branches. The first includes the traditional and mostly unproven treatments and cures. The second contains an untested, unproven home-based diagnostic kit which may be completely useless.
The third branch which is now at bloom includes coronavirus vaccine-related information and it would probably be the worst side after any vaccine is approved or made available for the public.
Despite living in a time when digital informatics is probably at its best, the chances of coronavirus related online scams are on the rise. These fraudulent posts and information target the most vulnerable people from society which assumes it to be legit. Despite doing the best which they think they are doing, they indulge themselves in a highly risky situation where they can even lose their life to this deadly virus.
Mackey reveals that there are many ways to identify a post or online scam, for example.
Pay attention to the details and analyze if this makes sense. Usually, any information that sounds too good to be true is mostly a fraud. As the virus has hit millions of people worldwide, the rapid sales, miraculous products, and bizarre tests or cures are more likely to be a fraud. Only pay attention to the guidelines shared by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and invest in products that are approved.
Buying coronavirus diagnostics products from outside the country are banned and even illegal. If a person suspects that he has contracted the virus, the best is to go to a local healthcare unit and get tested.
Do not invest in a product that provides a super easy solution because most likely, it would be fake. Coronavirus is deadly and having such a simple solution could have saved its spread to the whole world which is why no such solution is trustworthy.
If a seller is offering his good through social media, there are high chances for it to be fake. The diagnostic kits and medicines are not available to individuals offering their services online. These are either available at hospitals or can be bought from the manufacturing companies directly and that too in bulk. If someone offers to sell a testing kit over text messages, WhatsApp, or even Skype, it is a scam.
If a person has contracted the virus, he needs immediate medical help. Isolation at home can also help if the symptoms are manageable but still, talking to a doctor is much better and safer than relying on any online cure mentioned in a post.
The researchers hope that this study helps people to identify the fake information and frauds that are blooming on social media. It may also help to improve the social media policy on sharing health-related information for a better future.