Socially Distance from COVID-19 Scammers

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Some might call it a market niche, but others would call it highway robbery. In the truest sense of "Never let a good crisis go to waste," online scammers are popping up all over the internet, promising nonexistent supplies, untested medical equipment, and nonsense preventive talismans in the hopes that you'll give of your bank account.

Reporters at the New York Times this week published an exposé of ecommerce sites taking advantage of the coronavirus pandemic and the attendant fears it brings. The journalists found hundreds of websites on the Shopify platform that offered off-brand COVID-19 tests, virus-repelling jewelry, supposedly medical-grade face masks, and home blood-analysis machines, all available thanks to "dropshipping." In this method of ecommerce, retailers don't house their own goods, but rather order from a supplier, often overseas, acting as a middleman rather than a merchant.

With guidance from the highest levels of government scattershot or simply absent in the United States, it's not unreasonable to seek help or reassurance wherever you can find it. There are still experts available, though, and they will tell you that we can't buy our way out of this pandemic. There is no vaccine yet, nor a cure, and at-home tests cannot claim to be reliable when even institutions like the CDC and the WHO caution about false positives or undetectable carriers. Pay attention to news sources you trust, and get ready for the long haul. This won't be normal forever, but it's going to be normal for now.