Beware of the coronavirus con artists.

A crisis like the coronavirus pandemic has a way of bringing out the worst in some people. It's a time when a lot of regular folks, especially the sick and elderly, are understandably frightened and confused, and there are plenty of hustlers and flim-flam artists out there to tell those frightened folks what they want to hear - at a price.

Here's a short list of some of the hustles I've heard about in recent days:

PTL: Pass the Loot

The state of Missouri this week filed suit against disgraced minister Jim Bakker (of "PTL" fame) for hawking "coronavirus cures" on his website. Mr. Bakker, to refresh your memory, is a convicted fraudster, indicted in 1988 and sentenced to prison (he got out in 1994, after serving five years).

The truth is there is no cure for coronavirus, and a vaccine is at best months away.

End Times? (Well, for her, maybe)

Shortly before her death (which she apparently didn't see coming), self-described "psychic" Sylvia Browne wrote a book about the coming "end times," in which she predicted the rise and fall of a "severe pneumonia-like illness," making the rounds before disappearing as quickly as it appeared. Her fans have made much of her "prescience" in predicting this event.

Two points here: 1) a number of researchers have been warning for some time that society was past due for the rise of another pandemic, along the lines of the deadly "Spanish flu" outbreak in the years following World War I. You don't need to be a psychic to have seen this coming, any more than someone is psychic for predicting earthquakes in California. Just wait long enough...

2) Ms. Browne was a noted practitioner of the "shotgun" school of future-prediction. It works like this: make a lot of predictions about a lot of different things and focus on the ones that happen to actually happen. We won't bother listing the lady's many inaccurate predictions here (we just don't have the space).

Some write this off as harmless; I don't agree. The late Ms. Browne, known for exploiting the bereaved, was highly skilled at separating the desperate from their money. There are plenty of others in her wake.

On the other hand, Ms. Browne's book got the ringing endorsement of one Kim Kardashian (well, that convinces me)...

Billy Sol Gonna Heal Y'all

You might remember radio host Don Imus and his preacher character "Rev. Billy Sol Hargis," whose opening signature line for many years was "put your hands on the radio." Well, famous (infamous?) televangelist Kenneth Copeland has revived the old chestnut on his TV show. Speaking of coronavirus he said:

… Put your hand on that television set. Hallelujah. Thank you, Lord Jesus. He received your healing. Now say it: “I take it. I have it. It’s mine. I thank you and praise you for it…”

Yeah. Healing your coronavirus. Via television.

These are just a handful of more obvious ones. The sad thing is, there are frightened and vulnerable people among us who believe, or want to believe in the snake oil these scammers are offering. I urge you to talk with family members, especially the older ones, and warn them of the perils of being taken in by the hustlers and exploiters among us.

[Sources: History Channel, CBS, PopCrush, Progressive Secular Humanist]