Commentary, COVID-19

Attorney General Stein: What you should know about potential coronavirus scams

Attorney General Josh Stein

Reports of the coronavirus are on the rise across the globe and even here in North Carolina. Unfortunately, a situation that creates fear also creates an opportunity for scammers. Let’s not only prevent the spread of the virus, let’s also prevent our loved ones from falling victim to scams. Here are some ways you can avoid coronavirus-related scams.

Don’t fall for miracle cures. Scammers are offering products they claim are cures for the virus or will prevent you from getting sick. Per health officials, no such cure or vaccine exists – common-sense health precautions appear to be the way to protect yourself. Be skeptical of vaccinations, pharmaceuticals, or medications that promise a cure-all. Before you buy a product, talk to a doctor or health professional. And coronavirus or not, any offer that seems too good to be true probably is – don’t fall for it.

North Carolina is under a state of emergency to respond to this crisis, and as a result, our state’s price gouging law is in effect. The law makes it illegal to charge too much during a crisis. You can report potential price gouging to our office at ncdoj.gov/gouging or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Take a moment before you buy items like hand sanitizers and face masks. Because they’re in high demand, copycat products are popping up on the market. These copycat products are often lower quality and won’t actually be effective. Before you make a purchase, check with your doctor to confirm whether you actually need it. Check company reviews and product ratings before you buy, and avoid time-limited offers– they are designed to put pressure on you to make a purchase quickly without thinking it through. Walk away from these high-pressure pitches.

Watch out for phishing emails and texts about the coronavirus that appear to be from health officials, experts, or anyone else. Don’t open messages, click on links, or download attachments from senders you don’t recognize. And don’t share personal details or financial information unless you’ve verified who you’re in contact with and confirmed that sharing the information is essential.

And finally, don’t let scammers take advantage of your goodwill. Many of us want to help people who have been affected by the coronavirus, but make sure that any donations you give are going to real charities, not scammers. Verify the legitimacy of charities through the North Carolina Secretary of State, BBB Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Watch, or Charity Navigator.

Coronavirus does not appear to be going away over the coming months, so we should take steps to protect ourselves from this virus. But we should also protect our information and our hard-earned money from scammers trying to exploit this crisis. Stick to trusted resources for your information, including the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the World Health Organization. If you’re concerned that you or a loved one has been the victim of a scam, contact our office’s Consumer Protection Division at ncdoj.gov/file-a-complaint or 1-877-5-NO-SCAM.

Josh Stein is the Attorney General of North Carolina.

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