N.C. Attorney General, U.S. Attorney warn against Coronavirus-related scams

Stein spoke by video chat with WECT about potential scams.
Stein spoke by video chat with WECT about potential scams.(WECT)
Published: Mar. 31, 2020 at 5:56 PM EDT
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NORTH CAROLINA (WECT) - As the number of cases of the novel coronavirus in North Carolina grow, so too will the number of attempts to scam people out of their resources, state Attorney General Josh Stein said.

“The sad truth is, is even as our neighbors kind of go above and beyond to help each other out, there are going to be some greedy people who are going to try to steal your money,” he said.

The state’s price gouging law has been in effect since March 10, when Governor Roy Cooper enacted a state of emergency, but Stein says the threat of other types of unscrupulous behavior is just as high.

Stein said in the last week he’s been made aware of a variety of new scam attempts, particularly in the robocall and phishing-email space.

He said he was told of one instance where a caller pretends to be from the would-be victim’s local health department, saying that person has been exposed to COVID-19, and needs to purchase a test over the phone.

The FBI warns of phishing attempts that appear to be coming from the World Health Organization with “tips” on how to avoid the virus.

They also warn of fake emails that appear to be coming from companies in an effort to exploit the fact many people have increased their online shopping.

"They use the news of the day to try to steal your money,” Stein said.

The Attorney General's office offers suggestions of how to protect against COVID-19 Scams
The Attorney General's office offers suggestions of how to protect against COVID-19 Scams(NCDOJ)

Beyond those typical scam attempts, Stein said people need to be on the lookout for “miracle cures” and other methods scammers may try to use in order to make a quick buck.

“Particularly with a health scare, we’ll see these snake oil salesmen promising that they’ve got a cure or vaccine, when that is not true," he said.

While the FDA has fast-tracked some possible treatments for COVID-19 as well as a vaccine, none of those items have been released, and likely won’t be for many months.

United States Attorney Robert Higdon said with the passage of the stimulus bill in Washington, additional scams are also possible.

“If they are offering to provide some service that the government provides, or that you know that the government is going to be giving to you, for example these stimulus checks that are going to be coming, as the result of the bills that congress passed and the president signed, those are not going to require you to make any kind of up-front payment. It’s not going to require you giving your bank information. The IRS already has that information, or they will be mailing you a check. And so those are the kind of things that we’re concerned about," Higdon said.

Those who think they may have experienced a scam attempt or believe they are a victim of a scam are encouraged to call Stein’s office at 1-877-5-NOSCAM or file a complaint online.

Additionally, the Attorney General hosted a virtual town hall on social media Thursday to answer citizen questions about how his office is responding to the virus situation.

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