On March 19th, 2020 the telecoms security service Adaptive Mobile issued an alert on its website, warning people about an SMS scam preying on the ever-rising coronavirus alarm. It’s a sadly usual practice, on behalf of scammers, to exploit the current news to rip people off; for example, it happened already with the Ebola virus.
According to Adaptive Mobile, one of these scam messages claims a CBD-oil cure and redirects users, through an Internet link, to a fake Fox News online article about “one mom [who] has found a solution to fight back against the coronavirus outbreak” (See photo below). More links contained in the article would then land users on a website where they are advised to sign up and purchase this miraculous CBD-oil thanks to which they would be safe from Coronavirus. In its statement, the telecom company also observed how, in the week prior to when it made this (mis)information public, the number of scam text messages related to coronavirus increased six-fold.
These scams, unfortunately, cater to the most suggestible parts of the population and, if one does not pay attention to it, they can cause great financial damage to the victims. However, there are signals. First, the emotional appeal: these scams very often bring to the table a certain type of emotional closeness. This can be achieved by mentioning words like “crisis”, or by referring to the hardships one may encounter along the way or, like in our case, by appealing to familiarity. She who would have found this elusive cure against coronavirus is not simply a person, nor she is simply an American. Nope: she is a mother; like your mother, like the mother you are, like your daughter, your sister or your wife could be. Secondly, there is the aspect of the scamming platform to be considered: in this case, a Fox News-looking website hosted on a domain that has nothing in common with the Fox Networks’ one. Third, as Adaptive Mobile also mentions, these scams tend to either offer something for ‘free’ for a very limited amount of time, or to promise a cure or protection from the danger in question, shielding that you are, of course, invited to purchase. So, if you are in the U.S., please beware of whoever sends you a text basically telling you CBD is the panacea for this epidemic, and report these text messages to the competent authorities.
As for the science behind CBD and COVID-19, there is none. In general, evidence of CBD having antiviral properties is very scarce and scattered, with only a handful of studies showing promising results in treating viral hepatitis C or Kaposi sarcoma virus. Generally speaking, CBD can help boost one’s immune system, so taking it during these difficult times will surely do no harm and possibly protect your health. However, as far as cures for coronavirus based on CBD, there are none, there is no evidence of that, and it special responsibility also of those in the industry to keep an eye out for these false claims and scams and for reporting them. Ultimately, any falsity claimed in regards to a cannabis- or hemp-product can be very harmful for this industry, staining both the public integrity of legitimate companies and of the sector as a whole, and giving room to those detractors that could now attack cannabis and hemp entrepreneurs for lack of transparency, unfounded claims and, in general, for being dishonest and exploitative towards the customer base.