NEW YORK – With any major event, scammers are never too far behind.
Attorney General Letitia James has issued guidance to New Yorkers on how to protect themselves from scams related to the spread of the coronavirus in the state and across the nation.
Already, James said she issued a cease and desist order to an entity that is marketing a product as a treatment for the coronavirus. There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine.
“As we experience more cases of coronavirus, it is imperative that New Yorkers remain calm, but stay vigilant,” James said in a statement.
“In addition to being mindful about our health, we must also beware of unscrupulous actors who attempt to take advantage of this fear and anxiety to scam or deceive consumers."
James said her office is monitoring retailers for potential incidents of price gouging of necessary goods and entities selling bogus medical treatments.
She noted that "scammers commonly exploit real public health concerns and use heightened public fear to prey on consumers and profit from frauds related to those health fears."
What you should know about coronavirus scams
Here are some tips from the state Attorney General's Office:
New Yorkers should beware of fundraising solicitations and offers of goods and services related to COVID-19.
There is currently no FDA-approved vaccine to prevent COVID-19, but scammers may still offer fake vaccines and other bogus medical products claiming to offer “cures” for the virus. They may also offer “get rich quick” investment schemes for unproven virus treatments.
Scammers may set up sham charity websites and crowd-funding sites that request donations for virus-relief efforts for victims.
Scammers may use emails, texts, and social media posts that appear to give virus updates, but have malicious links that can steal sensitive personal identity information.
Sources to visit for information on coronavirus
• U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: www.cdc.gov
• New York State Department of Health: www.health.ny.gov, or by calling a special COVID-19 hotline: 1-888-364-3065.
• To report scams to the Attorney General's Office in New York, call: 1-800-771-7755 or visit: https://ag.ny.gov/contact-attorney-general-letitia-james
What you can do if you think you're being scammed
• Report retailers that appear to take unfair advantage of consumers by selling goods or services that are vital to the health, safety, or welfare of consumers for an unconscionably excessive price. Report such incidents to the Office of the Attorney General.
• Use caution when making charitable donations. You should never feel rushed or pressured to donate, and never make donations in cash, by gift card, or by money wire. If you receive a charitable solicitation, do some research to determine whether the charity is legitimate.
• Here's how to look up charities: Charity Navigator offers a listing of reputable charities at www.charitynavigator.org
• The Better Business Bureau offers a website that allows users to look up charities at www.give.org
• If you have questions or concerns about health insurance costs related to COVID-19 tests or care, people can call the Attorney General's health care hotline at 1-800-428-9071.
Joseph Spector is the New York state editor for the USA TODAY Network. He can be reached at JSPECTOR@Gannett.com or followed on Twitter: @GannettAlbany