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Public warned of coronavirus scammers, fraudulent emails, price gouging

The Attorney General and Consumer Protection director urge the public to beware of and to report any instances of scams and price gouging related to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The public has to be extra cautious of those who would take advantage of our community in a crisis situation,” Attorney General Clare Connors said in a news release. “We advise everyone to be vigilant, especially as we all work to ensure that everyone has access to necessities.”

Consumers need to be vigilant as scammers try to take advantage of the health situation by setting up charity scam websites, offering bogus medical treatment claiming to cure or prevent COVID-19, and disseminating false information about the disease through social media, text messages and emails.

>>Watch for fraudulent emails purporting to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or experts saying they have information about the virus.

Verify information through trusted government websites such as ftc.gov, cdc.gov, health.hawaii.gov, who.int

>>Do not clink on links from unknown sources. Doing so may lead to computer viruses or phishing attempts.

>>Ignore offers of goods or services for the coronavirus. No vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or over-the-counter products can cure or treat COVID-19.

>>Avoid offers of get rich quick investment schemes for unproven virus treatments.

>>Beware of solicitations for fundraisers through charities or crowdfunding sites. “You should never feel rushed or pressured to donate,” the state says. Never give cash, gift card or by money wire. Do your due diligence to verify the charity’s legitimacy.

In addition, price gouging, which is the practice of sellers taking advantage of consumers during an emergency or disaster by jacking up prices for essential goods and services.

Levins says, “Price gouging will not be tolerated in the State of Hawaii.”

All reports of such activity will be fully investigated, and anyone found engaging in such a practice will be prosecuted.

The Office of Consumer Protection may investigate or prosecute anyone who has engaged in price gouging.

Anyone who believes they are victims of price gouging or who has information regarding potential price gouging is asked to immediately file a complaint with Consumer Protection by calling 587-4272 or by going to https://cca.hawaii.gov/ocp/consumer-complaint/

The public is also urged not to hoard materials and supplies, which is often driven by false rumors.

“Please shop for your weekly needs and leave items for others who need to do the same,” the attorney general and the Consumer Protection director urge.

Click here to see our full coverage of the coronavirus outbreak. Submit your coronavirus news tip.

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