Facts Matter: Scam text warns of possible COVID-19 infection

Updated 4/25/2020 7:03 PM

Some people have received scam text messages warning they have been in contact with someone who has tested positive for COVID-19

The fake text, most likely an attempt by scammers to get personal data, instructs the recipient to click on a link for more information, according to KTLA-TV in Los Angeles. The message also recommends the person self-quarantine and get tested.


The Thomaston Police Department, in Thomaston, Maine, warned against responding to the fake text.

"DO NOT click on the link!" the police posted on Facebook. "It is not a message from any official agency. It is however a gateway for bad actors to find their way into your world."

Many responding to the department's post said they knew it was a scam.

Protest video not from pandemic

A video shared on Twitter shows New York police using a water cannon with the false claim officers are dousing mourners during a funeral because the group had violated social-distancing rules.

The post claimed people attending the funeral protested when police tried to stop the event. "NYPD brought in a Firetruck," the post said.

But the people getting blasted with water are protesters, not mourners, it happened in Jerusalem, not New York City, and the event had nothing to do with the coronavirus or social distancing, according to The Associated Press.

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The video is from a 2017 event in which Israeli police drenched a group of ultraorthodox Jews blocking a road while protesting against compulsory military service, the AP said. Police used a "skunk" spray, a mix of water and a foul-smelling chemical, to clear the road.

The New York fire department did break up a Hasidic wedding taking place during the recent limitation on social gatherings, the AP said.

Coronavirus story not labeled satire

A satirical story about the Pentagon saying an accident caused the coronavirus to be sprayed from planes was shared by some on social media who believed it was true, according to LeadStories.com.

The fake story originated in Aviation Daily, a satirical website for aviation buffs, LeadStories said.

The article claims the military has ordered "all military air wings and airlines to immediately stop spraying chemtrails until it can be determined how the COVID-19 virus found its way into the chemtrail fluid supply," and that "the entire chemtrail program is on hold until we can figure out who coughed onto a batch of chemicals."

Chemtrails are debunked claims that the white trails left in the sky by aircraft are full of chemicals planted by the government, according to Scientific American.


Aviation Daily publishes satire, according to its site. But the webpage with the coronavirus story wasn't labeled satire, and hundreds of people shared it on Facebook, LeadStories said.

COVID-19 caused singer's death

Country music singer Joe Diffie died last month from complications related to the coronavirus. But recent Facebook posts claim the cause of death was falsified to inflate COVID-19 numbers, according to PolitiFact.com.

In a post that Facebook flagged in an effort to combat fake news and misinformation, a user, purporting to be a friend of a friend of Diffie, said the singer's cause of death was falsely reported because higher numbers of coronavirus deaths will bring in more funding for the hospital.

But on March 27, Diffie wrote on his Facebook page that he had tested positive for coronavirus. Two days later, a photo of Diffie was posted on the page, along with the statement, "Joe Diffie passed away today, Sunday, March 29, from complications of coronavirus (COVID-19)," PolitiFact said.

In response to false reports Diffie died from lung cancer, his wife, Tara Diffie, took to Instagram.

"My husband @officialjoediffie did NOT HAVE LUNG CANCER," she wrote. "STOP STARTING FAKE NEWS. I've seen multiple posts, and it's upsetting to all of us."

• Bob Oswald is a veteran Chicago-area journalist and former news editor of the Elgin Courier-News. Contact him at boboswald33@gmail.com.

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