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Attorney General James takes action against coronavirus health scams, issues guidance to New Yorkers


Thu, Mar 5th 2020 04:40 pm

Provides guidelines, tips & warnings about resources, potential consumer scams

New York Attorney General Letitia James issued guidance to New Yorkers highlighting available resources and potential consumer scams related to the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).

A press release stated, “With several cases confirmed in New York, it is critical that New Yorkers are aware of their rights and the resources available to help them during this time. The office of the attorney general is actively monitoring retailers for potential incidents of price gouging of necessary goods, and entities selling bogus medical treatments that purport to effectively treat or cure COVID-19.”

This week, James issued a “cease and desist” order to an entity that is marketing a product as a treatment for the coronavirus even though there is currently no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent the disease or treatment to cure it.

“As we experience more cases of coronavirus, it is imperative that New Yorkers remain calm, but stay vigilant,” James said. “In addition to being mindful about our health, we must also beware of unscrupulous actors who attempt to take advantage of this fear and anxiety to scam or deceive consumers. I encourage anyone who believes they are the victim of a scam or predatory action to contact my office and file a complaint.”

The press release explained, “Scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears. New Yorkers should beware of fundraising solicitations and offers of goods and services related to COVID-19. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but scammers may still offer fake vaccines and other bogus medical products claiming to offer ‘cures’ for the virus. They may also offer ‘get rich quick’ investment schemes for unproven virus treatments.

“Additionally, scammers may set up sham charity websites and crowdfunding sites that request donations for virus-relief efforts for victims. Scammers may use emails, texts and social media posts that appear to give virus updates, but have malicious links that can steal sensitive personal identity information.”

James offered the following COVID-19 scam prevention tips:

•Beware of scammers selling bogus medical treatments and learn the facts about the coronavirus. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent the disease, so ignore offers promising otherwise. Stay informed about the disease by visiting the websites of the:

  • U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
  • New York State Department of Health: www.health.ny.gov, or by calling a special COVID-19 hotline: 1-888-364-3065

•Report retailers that appear to take unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services that are vital to the health, safety or welfare of consumers for an unconscionably excessive price. Report such incidents to the OAG.

•Use caution when making charitable donations. One should never feel rushed or pressured to donate, and never make donations in cash, by gift card, or by money wire. If one receives a charitable solicitation, do some research to determine whether the charity is legitimate.

Here are some helpful resources:

  • Charity Navigator offers a listing of reputable charities: www.charitynavigator.org.
  • The Better Business Bureau offers a website that allows users to look up charities and see whether they meet various standards of accountability: www.give.org.

Report suspicious charitable solicitations and scams to the OAG’s charities bureau.

•Beware of coronavirus-related investment scams. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission recently warned investors about coronavirus investment frauds. If investors are aware of or suspect securities fraud or wrongdoing, they can contact the OAG’s investor protection bureau online.

Those with questions or concerns about health insurance costs related to COVID-19 tests or care can call the OAG’s health care hotline at 1-800-428-9071.

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