As the novel coronavirus continues to spread throughout the world, people are looking to the internet for answers on how to prepare. Public health agencies and governments alike are pushing for hygienic practices like hand-washing and staying home if you’re feverish, but not everyone is getting the memo.
In response, some people are in a frenzy to stockpile food and healthcare items just in case they need to hole up for a little while to avoid the coronavirus. While it’s never a bad idea to have emergency supplies on hand, panic-buying can hurt your wallet as well as your morale.
Some scammers are taking advantage of the public’s growing fears by shilling bogus products online. Tap or click to see how they were advertising on Facebook before the hammer came down.
Fake coronavirus gear isn’t just being sold on social media. Online marketplaces like Etsy and Craigslist are experiencing a spike in listings for masks, lab coats and other assorted crackpottery. Some of these goods won’t do anything, while others can actually put you at risk. Here’s what to look for.
An epidemic … of poorly made knickknacks
Fears over the spread of the novel coronavirus have opened up a lucrative business opportunity for some of the worst people in the world. Right now on platforms like Etsy and Craigslist, hundreds of new listings have popped up shilling everything from military surplus gas masks to lab coats.
Sellers allege this gear can protect buyers against the coronavirus, but most of these listings are nothing more than scams. According to reports from Business Insider, more than 300 listings for n95 respirator masks have appeared on Etsy with surging prices.
Most of these masks are not genuine and do not bear the certification listed by the CDC to protect against viruses. As a result, Etsy is vigilantly moderating the platform to remove deceptive or false listing claims.
Etsy responded to Business Insider’s reports, stating, “While face masks are allowed on Etsy, we prohibit any items that make medical claims. Our team is prioritizing taking down any listings that claim to protect against coronavirus.”
Good thinking on their part. We don’t want anyone getting the wrong idea about healthcare products in the midst of a potential epidemic, right?
And then there’s Craigslist
Business Insider reported even more ridiculous coronavirus listings on fellow online marketplace Craigslist. Since many of these were local listings, their subject matter took a turn for the ridiculous.
In Los Angeles, someone put up a listing for an infant hazmat suit — complete with rebreather and feeding tube — for the low, low price of $50. There is no confirmation whether this suit does anything for your health. In fact, it may even trap germs inside.
Other strange listings include a set of more than 100 lab coats and ginseng vodka. Neither of these will protect you against the coronavirus, let alone any virus. Tap or click here to read more about coronavirus misinformation spreading online.
Unlike Etsy, Craigslist isn’t moderating these listings to the same extent. As we mentioned, many of these are local listings, which makes them more difficult to police.
How can I protect myself against fake products?
Right now, your primary concern for coronavirus in the U.S. should be hygiene-based. Steer clear of people coughing or sneezing, wash your hands frequently with soap and warm water, and cough into your sleeve or elbow if you must do so.
If you want to be extra prepared, it’s not a bad idea to stock up on emergency dry goods like pasta, rice, beans and water. But this should apply in the event of any crisis, not just a viral epidemic. If you’re stocked up on food and water, you won’t need to visit the market as often, which can cut down your chances of contracting the virus.
But when it comes to coronavirus gear online, you’re better off not even buying anything. The stuff you want and need can be found at your local supermarket or drug store rather than Etsy or Craigslist. This is why following the facts, not the rumors, makes all the difference for your health, wallet and sanity.
Want to see where coronavirus is hitting the hardest? Tap or click here to see John Hopkins University’s coronavirus case-tracking map.