The New York State Division of Consumer Protection (DCP) is alerting consumers about scammers taking advantage of the novel coronavirus.
Scammers are using techniques that typically arise with a major global event such as: falsely claiming to be online sellers of popular goods; setting up fake charities; sending fake emails and texts that contain harmful links designed to steal your personal information; and using robocalls to pitch novel coronavirus treatments and work at home schemes.
People should be on the lookout for scammers looking to take advantage of public fears surrounding this issue.
“Unscrupulous scammers never take a break and they are now trying to cash in on the news of the novel coronavirus by trying to lure people into unknowingly providing their personal information,” said Secretary of State Rossana Rosado. “During this public health emergency, there are simple steps you can take to avoid novel coronavirus scams that can help protect your hard-earned money and your identity.”
“New York State’s coordinated multi-agency response to managing the novel coronavirus includes raising awareness about deceptive and dishonest attempts to take advantage of people during this outbreak,” said Commissioner of the New York State Department of Health Dr. Howard Zucker. “The best ways to prevent the spread of COVID-19 and other respiratory illnesses involve proven precautions, like washing your hands, sneezing or coughing into your elbow and staying indoors when you feel sick to help prevent the spread of infection all year.”
Below are tips to protect yourself from novel coronavirus scams:
- Research online sellers before placing an order. Check out the seller by searching online for the person or company’s name, phone number and email address, plus words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” If everything checks out, pay by credit card and keep a record of your transaction.
- Don’t click on links from sources you don’t know. It could download a virus onto your computer or device. Make sure the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer is up to date.
- Be aware of emails coming from unknown senders. Watch for emails claiming to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts claiming to have information about the virus. For the most up-to-date information about the coronavirus in New York State, visit the New York State Department of Health website.
- Ignore online offers for vaccinations. If you see ads touting prevention, treatment, or cure claims for the novel 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?
- Be aware of emails asking for donations. Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding Don’t let anyone rush you into donating. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money, don’t do it.
- Be alert of high prices on critical goods. Any New Yorker who sees excessively priced consumer goods and services that are used primarily for personal, family or household purposes to prevent or respond to novel coronavirus should file a complaint with DCP. New Yorkers can now report sudden and unexpected increases in consumer goods such as hand sanitizer, cleaning supplies, or other health and sanitation related products by calling the consumer hotline toll free at 800-697-1220.
- Hang up on illegal robocallers. If you receive a call about scam novel coronavirus treatments to work-at-home schemes, hang up. Don’t press any numbers. The recording might say that pressing a number will let you speak to a live operator or remove you from their call list, but it might lead to more robocalls, instead.
- Be alert to “investment opportunities.” The 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.
New York State is closely monitoring the novel coronavirus. For up to date information on the novel coronavirus, visit the New York State Department of Health website or call the Novel Coronavirus Hotline at 1-888-364-3065.
The New York State Division of Consumer Protection serves to educate, assist and empower the State’s consumers. For more consumer protection information, call the DCP Helpline at 800-697-1220, Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. or visit the DCP website. The Division can also be reached via Twitter at @NYSConsumer or Facebook.