It seems like it has been well over a year, yet we have not yet reached the unofficial anniversary of the Covid-19 virus or the widespread use of the current media shock word “pandemic.” I realize this column is part of the media but I chose to go with “virus” instead, mostly since it has less syllables.

To make matters worse, we are approaching February, which is one of four Nielson “sweeps” months meaning the major networks will do anything to dramatize any news they can get their hands on.

So, it’s conceivable that when you take your sweetheart flowers on Valentine’s Day, and her cute little Bichon nips you on the ankles, given that’s all the little fella can reach, don’t put it on social media. If you do, the following day the lead story will read: “Lovelorn Man Mauled by Unknown Fuzzy Beast!”

Whether a pandemic or virus, it seems like the scientific community is closing in on a vaccine that I certainly hope will show a steady rate of progress with those who desperately need it, such as front-line medical staff and free-lance writers.

The joke around the newsroom — in other words, my home office where I talk to myself — is that we, or I, want to be in the second grouping of vaccine recipients, after studying the first group intently. I just want to be sure that the third eye or hand growing from one’s head was preexisting.

Things being what they are, the hope of a vaccine is, well, hope. Hope makes us feel better about lousy things. Unfortunately, hope also brings the potential for frauds. We do not need to go all in yet, at least until we do a little homework on the facts. Double-check your information until legitimate facts present themselves is a solid fundamental rule. In other words, check it out, check it again, and then check it again!

The FDA said proper safeguards and brand protection might not be available until the second generation of the vaccine because everything is currently operating on an emergency basis. This invites the opportunity for those slimy little fraudsters to cook up fake information, offered for a price, to the unwitting public.

If you remember, when Covid-19 cases spiked dramatically, masks, gloves, and other gear were in short supply. Scams soon surfaced, raking in thousands of dollars for protective goods never received. Crooks looking for an emotional response from potential victims offered home test kits months before they were legitimately available.

Since the virus reared its ugly head, Homeland Security analyzed more than 70,000 suspicious Covid-19 related websites. They seized more than 1,600 products valued at over $27 million dollars and arrested more than. Enforcement, however, is a reaction to crime and usually a step behind at the start of the race, meaning some crooks were successful early on.

And incarceration of some does not mean crooks are done being crooks, even in prison According to an NBC online article, thousands of inmates, reportedly including convicted killer Scott Peterson, bilked the state of California out of $140 million in fraudulent pandemic unemployment benefits between March and August 2020. The total number of fake claims topped 35,000. Well, that makes sense given they have nothing to do.

To rub even more salt in the wound, some of the names used to file benefits were John Doe, John Adams, and in one case, “Poopy Britches.” Seriously, Poopy Britches. Not one mid-level supervisor read the claim and said, “Uh, wait a minute.”

Sad news, the art of bureaucracy is alive and well folks. Grab it from the in-box, stamp it, and move it along without reading it. The article said California lacks the system to cross-reference inmate information with unemployment claims. That makes no sense.

Let’s hope 2021 brings us a surge in good stuff. What is good stuff? Take 2020 and hope for the opposite. We will happily start with that.

Steve Rose

Steve Rose is a retired police captain and a contributing writer to Atlanta Senior Life.