Unfortunately, as is often the case when challenging events strike communities, fraudsters are lurking in the shadows waiting to take advantage of whomever might be vulnerable to their latest scam. Enter the coronavirus! Scammers are setting up websites to sell bogus products, and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take advantage of consumers’ money and personal identification.
The emails and posts might look legitimate at first-promoting awareness and prevention tips- but also include fake information. They also may be offering advice on unproven treatments, they may contain malicious email attachments (Remember, do not click!), and they may want you to send money to victims. Don’t fall for these scams!
Some businesses trying to make a quick buck off of the crisis are inflating prices for essential consumer goods. We want to know about this if you see it happening!
“As cases of coronavirus continue to grow in the Pacific Northwest, Oregonians should remain calm, but vigilant,” said Attorney General Ellen Rosenblum. “Scammers will try to take advantage of your fear and anxiety to deceive you. Hopefully, you’ll think twice and will not fall for it. If you have lost money, provided personal or financial information, or if you are quoted inflated prices for basic needs, please contact the Oregon Attorney General’s office immediately and file a complaint.”
In order to avoid becoming a victim of a coronavirus-related scam, follow these six tips:
- Do Not Click on links from sources you don’t know. They could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and anti-virus software on your computer is up to date. One virus to worry about is enough!
- For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus, take it upon yourself to visit the websites of the Oregon Health Authority (OHA), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). If you receive an email or text claiming to be from one of these, do not click – it could be an imposter scam.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment, or cure claims for the coronavirus, ask yourself: if there’s been a medical breakthrough, would you be hearing about it for the first time through an ad or sales pitch?
- Give wisely when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
- Be alert to scam “investment opportunities.” The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is warning people about online promotions, including on social media, claiming that the products or services of publicly-traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure coronavirus and that the stock of these companies will dramatically increase in value as a result.
- Excessive prices? Contact the Oregon Department of Justice’s Consumer Hotline if you see merchants charging exorbitant prices for goods and supplies like face masks, toilet paper and hand sanitizers. Oregon law protects consumers from being charged excessive prices for essential consumer goods and services. These include food, shelter, bottled water, fuel and other items necessary for the health, safety and welfare of Oregonians.
To reach the Oregon Department of Justice’s Consumer Hotline, call 1-877-877-9392 or visit www.oregonconsumer.gov.