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Scams and more COVID scams

Updated on: 17 March,2020 06:46 AM IST  |  Mumbai
C Y Gopinath |

As uprecedented as the COVID-19 pandemic itself are the parade of charlatans and snake-oil peddlers selling fake cures for it

Scams and more COVID scams

Kenneth Copeland, pastor, bullshitter and among the teeming lot of sleazeballs trying to make a quick buck off COVID-19 with false claims

C Y Gopinath If you want to see a full frontal video of a man of god fooling millions of trusting viewers on prime time TV, watch this clip. It's only 1:29 seconds.

The man with the lizard eyes and glistening hands is Kenneth Copeland, pastor, prime time bullshitter and one of a growing list of sleazeballs trying to make a quick buck off COVID-19 with false claims and phony products. People like you are sitting ducks.

Why? Because, just like me, you are prone to believing anything delivered in a sober, grave voice by a man who has 'Dr' in front of his name, or who wears a white coat and uses language you don't understand.

Most importantly, you and I love being the first with breaking news, so we urgently share anything that sounds bizarre, unprecedented, unexpected or authoritative.

Unfortunately, COVID-19 has figured this out. It is the first virus whose spread is being fuelled by two modern and relatively recent human traits: our never-before social connectivity and our never-before rates of global travel.

So yes, like the previous column, this one too is about the one thing on everyone's mind: the global COVID-19 pandemic.

Except that this is about the con games and get-rich-quick operations that are sprouting up around it, in India and everywhere else.

Here are two simple things you can do when you get 'exciting' or 'novel' video or text about COVID-19, whether on Facebook, WhatsApp or Twitter.

Step 1 Look for a source. Find the name of whoever is being quoted or is speaking and Google search the name. That alone will open a Pandora's box. You could try again adding the word "scam" or "fake" to the search.

Step 2 Look for a product. If in the course of a video, you see a reference to a book or a medicine, however casually or incidentally done, that's a very red flag. Here are two examples.

Watch this video now — — and consider whether you believe Dr Dan Lee Dimke.

If you googled Dan Lee Dimke, you'll know right off that he's not a medical doctor. In fact, he's not a doctor of anything.

He also seems to be a self-promoter with claims to being an astronomer, hypnotist, master of accelerated learning and linguist who has written over 100 books for becoming magically wealthy. Should I continue?

He claims COVID-19 dies at high temperatures and suggests disinfecting yourself by blowing super-hot air into your nostrils and sinuses with a hair dryer.

Small fact: COVID-19 does not infect your sinuses but the upper respiratory tract.

At around 3:38 of the video, you'll see a book. Hit Pause. There he is. The author is Dan Lee Dimke. It's a clever promotion. Do not hit Forward!

Second example: a video that I actually forwarded.

Joe Rogan talks to Dr Michael Osterholm, Director of the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, University of Minnesota. The doctor, not fake, holds forth, precisely, scientifically and grimly about the bad things coming.

Right around 49:08, it comes out that he wrote a book in 2017 predicting exactly this virus. The book is shown. You are asked to buy it.

Would you forward this? The information is okay, but the purpose is to get rich off a disease.

You'll hear more such poppycock in days ahead.

Step 3 Look for an ideology. If someone says Hindus are immune to COVID-19 or that it's a Chinese virus, or an American bioweapon that went sideways, think ideology, religion and politics. Viruses neither have nationality nor recognise religion.

Ghanaian Pastor Daniel Obinim launched Coronavirus oil, apparently approved by the FDA's Heavenly Department. He announced that it would protect his flock from COVID-19 for a mere $34 a pop.

A BJP member speaking to an Assam assembly suggested spraying communities with cow urine to kill COVID-19. What a waste of cow urine.

In India, a well-known homoeopath charitably invited people to collect homoeopathic COVID-19 cures for free. There. Is. No. Cure. Yet. Anywhere.

US televangelist Jim Bakker offered a Silver Solution that he claimed completely cures COVID-19 in 12 hours, for $115. The government made him withdraw it.

Today I was sent a Tamil mystic's claim that sambrani (loban), the sap of the sal tree whose smoke is used to dry babies' hair, kills the virus. Its main component, benzoic acid, is a known therapeutic bacteria-killer used in ointments that treat bites, fungal infections and eczema.

Small problem: COVID-19 is caused by a virus, not a bacteria.

So once more - do not forward!

Here, viewed from there. C Y Gopinath, in Bangkok, throws unique light and shadows on Mumbai, the city that raised him. You can reach him at Send your feedback to

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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