Residents warned of scams, gouging
SIKESTON — As residents try and adjust to the coronavirus pandemic authorities are warning of potential COVID-19 related scams and price gouging.
“Across Missouri, COVID-19 related price gouging and scams are a big concern - we’ve received over 400 price gouging complaints in the past two weeks and we’re monitoring a number of different scams,” said Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt in a release. “Working with Governor Parson and Lieutenant Governor Kehoe to educate Missourians on potential scams and taking action wherever possible are important duties and we will remain vigilant as we move through this crisis.”
According to the FBI, they have seen a rise in fraud schemes related COVID-19, with things like fake CDC emails, phishing emails and counterfeit treatments or equipment.
As many Americans await stimulus checks from the coronavirus bill passed last week, authorities are also warning of a new scam that sends texts about offers of “goodies” from Costco, saying it is part of a COVID-19 “stimulus package” for the store’s “loyal customers”
Focus Bank has also advised of a phishing email that warns the recipients that they have been exposed to the coronavirus through personal contact with a “colleague/friend/family member” and directing them to download a malicious attachment and proceed to the hospital.
“This email is simple, succinct, and alarming,” said an emailed statement sent out by Focus Bank. “Moreover, it spoofs a hospital, lending additional credibility to this particular social engineering scheme, which is clearly designed to elicit a panicked response from readers and override any form of rational, measured thought.”
The Department of Justice is warning of scams that include:
• Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
• Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
• Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
• Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
The Department of Justice is also trying to fight hoarding and price gouging for critical supplies during the crisis. To combat this misconduct, President Trump issued an executive order pursuant which prohibits hoarding of designated items and Attorney General Barr has now created the COVID-19 Hoarding and Price Gouging Task Force.
According to the release, Schmitt first warned consumers of price gouging in early March, and the Attorney General’s Office has since seen over 400 complaints related to COVID-19 price gouging. Missouri law prohibits individuals and businesses from substantially raising their prices for the necessities of life during an emergency. Consumers need to be aware of products that see a large increase in prices, particularly substantial price increases on hand sanitizer, medical masks, soap, over the counter medicine and other necessities.
Missouri’s hospitals and healthcare professionals should also be on the lookout for medical supply chain price gouging.
If you think you are a victim of a scam or attempted fraud involving COVID-19, you can report it without leaving your home though a number of platforms. Go to:
• Contact the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org
• Report it to the FBI at tips.fbi.gov
• If it’s a cyber scam, submit your complaint through https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx
If you have information on hoarding or price gouging of critical supplies, you can report it to the National Center for Disaster Fraud by calling the National Hotline at (866) 720-5721 or by e-mailing email@example.com
“Price gouging and scams are not acceptable anytime, let alone during a crisis,” Parson said. “We must continue to work together and take action to protect Missouri citizens from those looking to prey on our most vulnerable.”