California DSS warns of fake letter that threatens removal of kids over COVID-19 testing

The California Department of Social Services (CDSS) is warning residents of a fake letter circulating social media claiming that recipients of the state’s government assistance program including MediCal and CalFresh will lose their benefits if they do not submit to mandatory COVID-19 testing.

The letter also claims that if state benefit recipients test positive for the virus, their children will be taken into foster care and asks those who utilize the benefit programs to visit a website that California’s DSS says is fake. 

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The letter appears to be signed by Mark Ghaley M.D., MPH, who is the current secretary for California’s Health & Human Services Agency, but the CDSS says the signature is fake. 

Ghaley did not immediately respond to a request for comment on his identity being used to produce the fraudulent letter. 

The letter has been shared on nearly every social media platform, including Twitter and Facebook.

“So the State of California owns you through welfare, foodstamps and health service,” wrote one user, who apparently fell for the ruse.

“State departments and county human services departments NEVER will ask about your health status in connection to an application for benefits,” wrote the CDSS in response to the circulation of the fake letter. “Similarly, children must be subject to abuse or neglect to enter foster care. Children cannot be put into foster care just because a parent may be ill.”

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The department is asking anyone with information on the origin of the letter or anyone with questions regarding the contents of the letter to contact CDSS at (916) 651-8848 or piar@dss.ca.gov.

FILE - Nurse practitioner Sharlene Gan with Los Angeles Christian Health Centers is taking a swab sample from James Ollie at the Midnight Mission of Skid Row Los Angeles testing for Coronavirus Covid-19. (Al Seib / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

Price gouging, phone and text scams and claims of a coronavirus cure in the form of a “powerful bleaching agent,” have been added to a long list of pandemic-related scams that emerged as soon as cases began to explode around the world. 

Scammers have taken advantage of a confusing pandemic where political agendas appear to downplay findings from medical experts, leaving millions of people without answers.

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The Food and Drug Administration has issued a warning for a church selling a “Miracle Mineral Solution” claiming to be a treatment for COVID-19 as a powerful bleaching agent with life-threatening adverse effects to those who drink it.

Widespread misinformation has prompted distrust among many people toward the government and medical professionals alike, allowing coronavirus scams to run rampant.

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On their website, the FCC details reports of scam and hoax text messages and robocalls “offering free home testing kits, promoting bogus cures, selling health insurance, and preying on virus-related fears."

The FCC also reminded consumers that phone numbers can be spoofed. A call can appear to be coming from a friend or a loved one when it is actually a scammer. Government agencies will never ask for personal info or money, according to the FCC.