Attorney General Fox Reminds Consumers to be Vigilant for Pandemic Scams, Frauds
Office investigating claims of price gouging, other pandemic-related consumer complaints
Montana Attorney General Tim Fox 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,” Fox advised.
Fox added his Office of Consumer Protection has received 17 complaints thus far related to COVID-19 (14 price-gouging complaints, 3 complaints related to cancellation policies).
Fox offered the following consumer safety tips:
- Scams can come in any format, including a text, social media message, phone call, voicemail, email, or even a television advertisement. Consider any communication from an unknown person to be suspicious. Don’t click on links from unknown sources, which could download malware onto your device.
- It’s safest not to pick up from any phone number you don’t recognize. Let the caller leave a voicemail; decide later whether to respond.
- If you answer and it’s a robocall, hang up immediately. Don’t press any numbers, even if the message promises to have you removed from their call list. Pressing numbers leads to more scam calls.
- While it’s true that an economic stimulus check or direct deposit should be coming your way, it could be weeks before that money arrives. Ignore anyone who says they can get you that money 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 you are asked to purchase and then mail products are scams. Any job where you 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, call the Office of Consumer Protection or visit the Federal Trade Commission’s page on work-from-home scams.
- Ignore offers for vaccinations, oils, pills, potions, lotions, or lozenges that claim to prevent, treat, or cure COVID-19.
- Rely only on trusted sources for COVID-19 information, such as the Montana Department of Justice, Centers for Disease Control, World Health Organization, and the Montana Coronavirus Task Force.
- Fact check before sharing any information. For official information on the federal government’s response to COVID-19, go to www.coronavirus.gov.
To file a COVID-19 scam report or price gouging complaint, call the Office of Consumer Protection at (406) 444-4500 or 1-800-481-6896 toll-free. You may also email [email protected] or file a complaint online.