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Attorney general warns of pandemic scams, frauds

Office investigating claims of price gouging, other pandemic-related consumer complaints

 


Press release

HELENA – The Montana attorney general is warning consumers to beware of frauds exploiting the outbreak of COVID-19 and the economic stimulus checks that will be distributed across the country.

“Scammers are hard at work turning breaking news into ways to steal your money or personal information. While we know about several types of COVID-19 scams, these frauds are constantly evolving, and the best tool you have to protect yourself is your own good judgment,” Attorney General Tim Fox said. “Fraudsters are working COVID-19 into common phone scams you may already be familiar with. For example, a new twist on the grandparent scam says that your loved one is in the hospital due to COVID-19 and cash needs to be sent right away. Or, a variation of the shipping package scam says ‘your delivery of masks and equipment for coronavirus’ or ‘your coronavirus prescription’ are ready. If you get one of these calls, hang up immediately.”

The Department of Justice’s Office of Consumer Protection has received 17 complaints thus far related to COVID-19, 14 price-gouging complaints and three complaints related to cancellation policies.

 Some tips on avoiding scams include:

• Scams can come in any format, including a text, social media message, phone call, voicemail, email, or even a television advertisement. People should consider any communication from an unknown person to be suspicious and should not click on links from unknown sources, which could download malware onto your device.

• It’s safest for people not to pick up from any phone number they don’t recognize and let the caller leave a voicemail and decide later whether to respond.

• People who answer and it’s a robocall should hang up immediately. They should not press any numbers, even if the message promises to have them removed from the call list. Pressing numbers leads to more scam calls.

• While it’s true that an economic stimulus check or direct deposit should be coming people’s way, it could be weeks before that money arrives. People should ignore anyone who says they can get that money to people sooner, whether through a grant or for a fee. They’re a scammer.

• With people out of work nationwide, there will surely be an influx of “work-from-home scam” victims. Online “jobs” where people are asked to purchase and then mail products are scams. Any job where people accept a check and then are asked to send part of that check to someone else is scam. For help figuring out whether an online job is a scam, people cam call the Office of Consumer Protection, contact information below, or visit the Federal Trade Commission’s page on work-from-home scams at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/pass-it-on/work-at-home-scams .

• People should ignore offers for vaccinations, oils, pills, potions, lotions, or lozenges that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.

• People should rely only on trusted sources for COVID-19 information, such as the Montana Department of Justice, online at https://dojmt.gov/agooffice/montana-department-of-justice-covid-19-information , Centers for Disease Control, online at https://www.cdc.gov , World Health Organization, online at https://www.who.int/, and the Montana Coronavirus Task Force at https://covid19.mt.gov/.

• People should fact-check before sharing any information. For official information on the federal government’s response to COVID-19, people can go to http://www.coronavirus.gov.

To file a COVID-19 scam report or price-gouging complaint, people can call the Office of Consumer Protection at 406-444-4500 or 1-800-481-6896 toll-free. They also may email [email protected] or file a complaint online at https://app.doj.mt.gov/apps/Oscar/default.aspx .

 

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