As North Carolinians work to stay healthy and safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, scammers are looking to take advantage of their fears. Our office has received information from federal partners about robocalls and text message scams offering bogus miracle cures, free at-home test kits, updates from government authorities, and home cleaning that scammers claim will reduce your risk of getting COVID-19. Some robocallers may also be offering help obtaining stimulus checks from the federal government.
Scammers are working to take advantage of people’s fears to steal their money and personal information. Our office is working hard to protect consumers, and we want you to be able to avoid coronavirus scams. The best way to protect yourself is to follow these tips:
· Watch out for unsolicited messages and calls. Never respond to texts or calls from unknown numbers. Take care to avoid clicking links, paying for products, or giving personal information to an untrusted solicitor. Know that government agencies will never call you to ask for personal information or money. If you want information and the updates on government efforts related to COVID-19, contact your local government office, or go directly to the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services [ncdhhs.gov] or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [cdc.gov].
· Be skeptical of “miracle cures” and testing offers. Ignore unsolicited offers for vaccinations, pharmaceuticals, and medicines that promise to cure COVID-19 or prevent you from getting the virus to begin with. Some scammers have reportedly targeted individuals who are high-risk to contract COVID-19. According to medical experts, no such cure-all product exists. Before you purchase a product or a service, check with a doctor. Remember, as all scams go – if it’s too good to be true – it probably is.
· Don’t let anyone rush you. Avoid sales offers that are only good “now or never.” Fears about the spread of coronavirus mean that many people are making decisions under pressure – walk away from high-pressure sales pitches or cure-all promises. You should never feel like you have to make a decision or share financial information under pressure.
As we navigate the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s crucial that we do so with accurate information and protect our personal information and money in the process. If a company contacts you and you’re unsure of their authenticity or if you believe that you have been the victim of a scam, contact our office’s Consumer Protection Division at ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint [ncdoj.gov] or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.
Attorney General Josh Stein Investigates Nine Online Sellers For Price Gouging
Attorney General Josh Stein on Friday announced that he is working with Amazon to investigate nine North Carolina businesses and sellers over price gouging concerns. Attorney General Stein was notified by Amazon that these sellers had raised prices dramatically for items that have been in high demand during the coronavirus pandemic, including hand sanitizer and N95 masks.
“At a time when North Carolinians are trying to take care of themselves and their families in the face of an unprecedented crisis, some sellers are instead focused on unfairly taking people’s money,” said Attorney General Josh Stein. “My office will investigate these cases and take action if we believe they’ve violated the price gouging law. Any other would-be gougers should take note: if you take advantage of consumers during this crisis, we will come after you and hold you accountable.”
Amazon identified these North Carolina-based sellers as having raised prices on coronavirus-related products more than 40 percent between Feb. 10 and March 16, 2020, and as a group having generated more than $100,000 in sales as a result of those higher prices. North Carolina’s price gouging law was triggered by Gov. Cooper’s declaration of a state of emergency in response to the COVID-19 pandemic on March 10, 2020.
The price gouging law that protects people from scammers is in effect in North Carolina, and our office has received more than 450 complaints. Attorney General Stein and the North Carolina Department of Justice will be reviewing price gouging complaints from consumers closely and are prepared to take action against any businesses engaging in price gouging activities. Please report potential price gouging by calling 1-877-5-NO-SCAM or by filing a complaint at ncdoj.gov/pricegouging [ncdoj.gov].
More on Attorney General Stein’s work to protect North Carolinians during the COVID-19 pandemic:
- Attorney General Josh Stein Takes Additional Steps to Protect North Carolina Consumers During COVID-19 Pandemic [ncdoj.gov]
- Attorney General Josh Stein Fights for Emergency Relief for Student Loan Borrowers During COVID-19 Pandemic [ncdoj.gov]
- Attorney General Josh Stein Urges President Trump to Act Quickly to Save Lives During the Coronavirus Pandemic [ncdoj.gov]
- Attorney General Josh Stein Commends Utilities Commission Decision to Help Customers During COVID-19 Crisis [ncdoj.gov]
- Attorney General Josh Stein Urges North Carolinians to Watch Out for Coronavirus Scams [ncdoj.gov]